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

Monday, July 29, 2013

The One That Got Away

This is what a garlic scape looks like when it starts to flower.

It looks kind of like Pinocchio.

Or a really Seussian Santa hat.

I missed it a few weeks ago when I was harvesting garlic scapes for cooking. Do you cook with garlic scapes? I chop them fine and mix them in with stir-fry veggies, which I often eat in the morning with two poached eggs. Yummy!

I also make garlic scape pesto. I just used up my last garlic scapes to make one final batch. I measure the pesto out into ice cube trays and then freeze them, and put the cubes in a plastic bag in the freezer. And then I throw one into the frying pan with the morning veggies.

When I saw the scape starting to open, I realized it was probably time to harvest the actual bulbs of garlic, at least those two rows on the left. The leaves were starting to turn brown and a bit crispy.

I love fresh garlic from the garden. I didn't know garlic could be juicy, till I grew my own.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Monkeying Around for Wildflower Wednesday July 2013

I have three kinds of perennial monkey flower growing in my garden here in western Washington -- Mimulus cardinalis, Mimulus lewisii x cardinalis and Mimulus aurantiacus 'Apricot.' I started the Mimulus cardinalis from seed my very first winter in this house, using winter sowing methods, and planted it out in the spring. That spring I also sent in my very first order to Annie's Annuals, and part of that order was a single pot each of M. lewisii and M. aurantiacus.

Mimulus cardinalis

M. cardinalis, also called scarlet monkey flower, likes moist soil, so that first year I planted it near the front of one of my borders in the back garden, knowing it would get overspray in that spot from the lawn sprinklers. It stayed in that spot until this past late winter/early spring, when I started a complete overhaul of that bed. It had always been just a little too tall for that front spot, so I moved it into the center of the bed. It doesn't get overspray any more from the lawn sprinklers, which we now use a lot less often than we did when the lawn was new and had just been seeded. Those four tiny little cups of seedy hope have now turned into quite a nice swath of plants, which the hummingbirds just love.

The flowers look to me like a big red yawning mouth with buck teeth

Some facts about scarlet monkey flower:

Height: 24-36 inches
Width: 18-24 inches
Soil Preference: Moist, rich soil
Hardiness: Zone 6-9
Sun exposure: Full sun to light shade
Native range: Western North America

Mimulus lewisii x cardinalis

My one little pot of M. lewisii x cardinalis from Annie's has also turned into a swath of plants. I planted it near the M. cardinalis that first year, because it also likes moisture, and again, moved it into the center of the bed when I overhauled it. When I moved it, I divided it, spreading it into a wider space. The hummers love it as well. It's a naturally occurring hybrid of M. lewisii and M. cardinalis.

Some facts about M. lewisii x cardinalis:

Height: 18-24 inches (although mine is the same height as the scarlet)
Width: 24-36 inches
Soil Preference: Moist, rich soil
Hardiness: Zone 6-10
Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade
Native range: Western North America

Mimulus aurantiacus 'Apricot'

My solitary pot of M. aurantiacus from Annie's has turned into a good-size shrubby deciduous clump, but isn't really divide-able. Unlike its monkey relatives, it doesn't prefer moisture, so because it had peach-colored flowers, I planted it with others that I thought would make a good match -- Carex testacea, a peach-colored Primula (which doesn't actually bloom at the same time), Pennisetum 'Karley Rose' which right now has pretty much overwhelmed it completely by draping its puffy seedheads all over it), and some Euphorbias with chartreuse bracts, red stems and purple foliage. It starts flowering earlier in the spring than the other two monkey flowers. I've never seen the hummers feeding from it. I usually cut it back to the ground, but I think this coming winter I might leave it and see if its top growth survives. Its common name is Sticky Monkey Flower, because of the clinging nature of its leaves.

M. aurantiacus 'Apricot' soon after being planted

Some facts about M. aurantiacus

Height: 24-36 inches
Width: 36 inches
Soil Preference: Adaptable, but prefers dry
Hardiness: Zone 7-10
Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Native range: Western North America

I'm a couple of days late with this post, but hopefully Gail of clay and limestone will forgive me. I've been doing lots of little chores out in the garden, pausing every so often to document them with the camera, and then trying to gather my thoughts together to do several different posts. Too much going on at once!

Check out Wildflower Wednesday on clay and limestone, and be sure to visit all the other bloggers who are posting about wildflowers. Wildflower Wednesday is on the fourth Wednesday of every month and its purpose is to celebrate wildflowers all over the world.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue...and Glowing

No, I'm not getting married. But that little rhyme seemed appropriate to today's post.

Ever since the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in February, I've been gathering ideas for ways to display terra cotta pots out in the gravel garden.

Remember this display on the Skyway at the show?

And these from the Fling?

I also recently saw these chimney liners in artist Sondra Shira's garden on an NPA tour.

For a couple of weeks now I've been trying to recreate something along those same lines, using thrift store purchases and succulent plants in my gravel garden.

Here's my attempt.

The pots and most of the plants are new this year. The columns are terra cotta wine coolers, bought for a couple of bucks each at my local thrift store. I originally bought the dark blue plates under the pots at the thrift store with the intention of breaking them and making some kind of mosaic on the columns with the bits, but I have no confidence in my ability to create a mosaic, so I decided to use them as drip catchers instead (although those plants seldom get watered).

This plant wasn't labeled, but I'm pretty sure it's Manfreda 'Macho Mocha.'

Agave 'Baccarat' bought at the flower show

The spikes leave a permanent imprint.

Dyckia 'Precious Metal' bought during a trip to WeHoP, with another $2 thrift store find.

The color-matched pitcher came from the thrift store too. So far I haven't planted anything in it, but you never know. It has no drainage.

I found this flowering Aloe glauca at Lowes a few days ago, when I went in to buy a new hose. Only $19.99 for a 1.5-gallon plant.

And the piece de resistance...

Agave 'Blue Glow' bought at Flora Grubb during the Fling, and very kindly trucked home in his car by Scott Weber of Rhone Street Gardens.

Over the next little while it'll probably get some tweaking, and it doesn't have quite the heavy industrial vibe of some of the inspiration. But it works for me, for now.

Oh, you may have noticed another recent purchase that is part of this grouping of pots, my yellow Brugmansia.

Flowering up a storm

Unlike the still small survivor of my overwintering Oops, when I put my three Brugs in an unheated shed instead of the heated garage.

Close-up you can see (and smell) how they got the common name of Angel's Trumpet.

Something Old: Thrift store finds
Something New: New plants
Something Borrowed: The idea
Something Blue: Agave 'Blue Glow' (actually the Aloe glauca too)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Favorite Plant in the Garden Right Now...

Is a hardy Geranium known as Geranium phaeum 'Samobor,'  'Mourning Widow' or just dusky cranesbill. Hardy Geraniums are pretty common, so what do I love about this one?

I love the dark, almost black splotch on the leaves.

The leaves are quite large and really make a visual impact.

I like it so much I have it planted repeatedly throughout my garden.

It plays well with others.

Here it is with Alchemilla mollis and Persicaria 'Painter's Palette (and a rogue daylily photo-bombing the picture).

With Heuchera 'Tiramisu' and 'Snow Angel.'

In fact, I like it so much with those two companions, I have repeated that combo in other spots in my garden.

The foliage looks good with this plain green Sanguisorba too.

With that dark splotch, it would also make a good companion for black mondo grass and any of the dark-leaved bugbanes, such as 'Brunette' or 'Hillside Black Beauty.'

It has lovely, unusual, reflexed flowers, smaller than a hardy Geranium like Rozanne, but dark purple, to match the leaf splotch. The smallish flowers rise on stalks above the foliage. Granted, you have to look closely to appreciate them, but I like that. And it will rebloom if you remember to cut it back soon enough in the season.

It reseeds modestly, at least in my garden.

Two babies, rescued and potted up.

Here's a third, which has popped up the middle of a patch of Sedum 'Cape Blanco.'

Occasionally the seedlings, like this one, have only a touch of the dark splotch.

And a plus here in the moist PNW is that slugs don't seem to bother it.

Here are some stats about Geranium phaeum 'Samobor.'

Height: 18-24 inches
Width: 15-18 inches
Hardiness: Zone 5 - Zone 8
Sun Exposure: Partial Sun to Full Shade
Soil Preference: Moderately fertile, not water-logged

I seldom see it for sale at local nurseries, but you can buy it online by mail order from:
Digging Dog Nursery
Bluestone Perennials
Lazy S's Farm Nursery
Keeping It Green Nursery
Joy Creek Nursery

Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' was found in 1990 by Elizabeth Strangman of Washfield Nursery in Kent, England growing as a natural variant in the woods near Samobor, Croatia. It was introduced to North American gardeners by Heronswood.

I'm linking this to danger garden's current "My Favorite Plant in the Garden" meme, which you can read here. Her fave plant this week is a cool sea holly called Eryngium maritimum, one I've never heard of, check it out!