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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Juggling Trees and Shrubs -- Part Two

And now for Part Two of the Tale of Juggling Trees and Shrubs. Read Part One here, in which I transplant a Hinoki cypress from one part of my garden to another in order to make room for a Magnolia macrophylla and a Japanese maple.

I've also been hankering for a Stewartia pseudocamellia, a tree with beautiful white Camellia-like flowers and peeling bark that would be at home in a part shade spot in the back garden. In order to plant it, I needed to take out the smaller of my two Indian plum trees. Oemleria cerasiformis is a wonderful Pacific Northwest native small tree, one of the first to flower in late winter, but not only do I already have a larger one growing in a different bed, but my neighbor has an even bigger one just on the other side of my fence, so we don't really need three in the immediate vicinity.

On a recent visit to Bellevue Nursery, I found a very nice 5 1/2-foot tall Stewartia (Hooray for yet another 20% off coupon), but to get it into position (with Nigel's help and a hand trolley), I was going to have to temporarily remove some shrubs -- a Viburnum trilobum 'Red Wing,' a native Euonymus atropurpureus, and a Hamamelis 'Jelena.'

So, one recent weekend I did a lot of digging and then Nigel helped me wrestle the new tree into place behind the stream. Although it's over 5 feet tall, it looks small next to the enormous Douglas firs that tower over my garden.

It's got plenty of room to grow upwards!
The slender trunk is already showing signs of the lovely peeling bark that Stewartia is known for

Stewartia flowers -- it's loaded with buds, which hopefully will open soon

The current lineup behind the stream (l-r): Hamamelis 'Jelena,' Stewartia pseudocamellia, Myrica californica (Pacific Wax Myrtle) and Leycesteria formosa (Himalayan Honeysuckle, hard to see, hiding behind the Myrica)

Myrica californica was one of the first trees I planted here, in the hopes that it would provide screening from neighbors' blue tarp-laden yards. It's much bigger than it was when first planted, but it still hasn't topped the height of the fence. I saw one last year at the Elisabeth C. Miller Garden in North Seattle, and theirs was huge, so I have high hopes for the future. According to what I've read online, it should eventually reach a height of 20-30 feet.

Myrica californica and Leycesteria formosa

Since I had a blank slate there for a short time, I decided to take the opportunity to re-arrange the perennials that were growing beside the stream. I haven't been happy with the tall grasses that I planted too close to the water, because in the shady spot they had a tendency to flop and droop their blades and inflorescences into the water. They also very quickly became much too crowded. So I dug out everything, found a new home for some of the grasses, and then replanted the Primula 'Bellarina,' Carex 'Ice Dance,' and Euphorbia. I also planted several large healthy clumps of a nice Epimedium that I love, which used to live in the front shade bed, but got removed when I replanted that bed recently. Now it's much tidier and I'm much happier.

But I did end up with some shrubs that I now don't quite know what to do with.

Viburnum trilobum 'Red Wing' has now gone begging for a home in another bed. Somewhere.

I love its reddish new growth, so I really need to find a spot for it

The Euonymus atropurpureus, aka Eastern wahoo, has yet to show me the cool blooms that made me want it in the garden.

Indian Plum, removed to make room for the Stewartia, is looking a bit bedraggled. I'll probably give it away on craigslist.

Stay tuned for Part Three, in which I remove one tree to make room for another. Again.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wednesday Vignette

Way back in the Stone Age when I first started gardening, back when we lived in Massachusetts, I remember reading somewhere that when I went out in the garden to photograph flowers, I should always carry a spray bottle of water to squirt on the flowers, because water droplets made such a nice effect on flower petals. Whoever wrote that didn't live in the PNW, where Mother Nature makes her rounds with her very own spray bottle.

Nearly blown tulip in the garden of Walt Bubelis

Pacific Coast Iris in the garden of Walt Bubelis

My friend Anna at Flutter and Hum hosts the meme Wednesday Vignette. In her words: "This meme celebrates combinations. The inspiration of the week can be foliage and flowers, but it can also consist of surrounding materials, colors and textures, or a combination of it all – anything that creates an arresting display in the world around us. It can be from gardens as well as buildings, urban grit or grand vistas. Scale is arbitrary – your vignette can be as small or as large, as stark or as flamboyant, as simple or as complex as you like it. It can be something carefully constructed, and it can be something completely random. I remember my father-in-law’s puzzlement over my fascination over the color fluctuations of a half-rotten, homegrown pepper which had gotten a little over-ripe on the sunny window sill. I thought it was absolutely gorgeous, but I will never forget the look on his face. He thought I was stark raving mad!  Seriously, the Weekly Vignette can be ANYTHING! As so often happens with inspiration – it can come from anywhere – from where you least expect it. See it, capture it, and share it!"

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Florabundance Floozie

Every spring at about this time, the Arboretum Foundation hosts its Florabundance sale, the largest sale in the Seattle, Washington area, which attracts a large number and variety of specialty nurseries. You can find a list of 2015 vendors here. I've gone to this sale for two of the last 6 years, and decided this year to go again. I don't remember if I've ever written about it on my blog. It's a great sale, and -- dare I say it? -- rivals Portland's Hortlandia, but with room to breathe. They also have a fleet of little red wagons for hauling purchases around in, not to mention the room to maneuver said wagon (I managed to snag one). But if you aren't as lucky as I was, you can leave your box of plants in a holding area, and go back into the fray to fill up another (and another) before checking out. There's a drive-up pickup area just outside the desk where you pay for your plants.

It takes place most years in an old but recently refurbished airplane hangar at Magnuson Park in Seattle, and the vendors fill the hangar. I arrived at about 10 a.m. (the sale opened at 9), and planned to first simply photograph whatever caught my eye, but quickly succumbed to the desire to shop.

Can you hear it? The siren call of plants waiting to be adopted

Hard to tell from this photo, but that hangar goes back a loooooong way

Almost all the vendors at the sale have excellent signage, like these from MsK Nursery (associated with the Kruckeberg Botanical Garden)

Veratrum viridis (False Hellebore)

White Primula japonica

Maianthemum stellata (starry false Solomon's seal)

'Sapporo' Rhododendron

Acer shirasawanum 'Moonrise'

Red Russian kale

Forget eating it -- that color makes it a fabulous ornamental!

Bronze Rodgersia

More Rodgersia peeking out from under one of the tables

Berberis insignis

Eucomis 'Dark Star,' I wish I'd bought one

Schefflera gracilis -- so dainty

Maianthemum sp. at the Far Reaches table

And there's one of the owners of Far Reaches, the ever-popular and fun to eavesdrop on Kelly Dodson (on the right)

A flat of Echium pininana seedlings

Protea cynaroides (King Protea)

There's always Agaves if you look hard enough

Agave schottii

Euphorbia griffithii 'Dixter' (kicking myself now for not getting one -- or two -- or all of them)

So, what did I buy?

In front, l-r: Maianthemum stellata, white Primula japonica, Echium pininana; in back, l-r: Tomato 'Cherokee Purple,' Maianthemum sp., Veratrum californicum, Cypripedium formosanum (my first lady's slipper), Euonymus hamiltoniana ssp. sieboldianus

I've been on a bit of a Maianthemum collecting kick lately. I bought two M. fusca at Hortlandia, and went to the Florabundance sale in search of Maianthemum racemosum (our native false Solomon's seal). I didn't find it but I found the starry false Solomon's seal, and the one from Far Reaches, about which the website says:

"Guatemalan False Solomon Seal. A collection from Guatemala at 8000'-9000' on Volcan Azul by Josh McCullough where he found this growing both epiphytically on Oak trees and terrestrially. Cool New World False Solomon's Seal that is best brought in during the winter unless you are Zone 9. This makes an interesting lignotuber of sorts at the soil surface which is a big swollen storage organ that is often found in epiphytes (tree dwellers) to help them weather periods of dry as well as uncommon cold snaps. Ahh, the adaptations of plants! We haven't flowered it but this has long 10" pedicels according to Josh's notes."

I was surprised to discover this spring that the Veratrum californicum, that I bought last spring and planted in the back garden right before our dry summer began, had survived and come back looking healthier than I expected. So I bought a second one. 

According to its description, the Euonymus hamiltoniana has the same orange berries within bright pink calyxes that E. europaeus has, a plant that my friend Peter The Outlaw Gardener grows that I've coveted. It's going in the front bed along the street, where pink and orange (with a touch of blue) are the signature colors.

And, I've long wanted to try growing a Cypripedium. C. formosanum has the reputation of being one of the easiest to grow. It's going into the new shade bed under the pin oak tree that I recently redid and wrote about here.

Other than its cool flowers, which I probably won't see till next year or even the year after, the Cypripedium has interesting pleated leaves.

This sale pretty much signals the end of the most intense part of spring plant shopping. I've been making lots of changes to the garden lately, but I'm definitely going to slow down on the plant buying from now on. Some day, hopefully, I'll actually plug the last plant in my pot ghetto into the ground. 

Then I'll celebrate!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Juggling Trees and Shrubs -- Part One

I tried to learn to juggle when I was younger, but always ended up dropping things if I tried juggling more than two things at once. Three at once --- nope, not gonna happen. I just don't have the agility or dexterity for it. Some days, I'm doing well if I can just walk in a straight line, and I don't drink!

Lately, I've been juggling trees and shrubs, trying to figure out where I can plant some of the cooler ones that I didn't realize I wanted till after all of the larger stuff had already been planted. That meant taking out some of the multiples of shrubs that I have, which I mentioned in a recent post here.

I wanted a Magnolia macrophylla, but figured it wouldn't reach its fullest potential unless it was planted in full sun. That meant taking out one of the trees that I just planted last year in the full sun front bed, which is in a western-facing location. A perfect spot for the Magnolia, but as it turned out, not so perfect for the 'Sunlight Lace' Hinoki cypress that I planted in the bed last year. Although the tag says "Full Sun to Partial Shade," I read online that the needles could get sunburnt in full afternoon sun. I decided to give it a shot anyway, but unfortunately, the online advice was correct.

My poor Hinoki cypress's sunburnt arse


So I decided to move the Hinoki cypress into the shadier back garden, and put the bigleaf Magnolia in its place. I don't know what will happen to the sunburnt areas, I just hope it thrives in its new spot. Despite the sunburn, it was doing well in its old spot, putting on good top-growth.

Good growth on the Hinoki cypress

I wanted to keep the Hinoki cypress, despite its bad sunburn. Nigel, the sarcy bugger, told me I should plant an Aloe next to it for its sunburn. In order to fit it into the back garden, that meant moving something else. I had two 'Fat Albert' blue spruces. One, a small one, only about 3 feet high and kind of spindly, was in the corner near the gate, so out it came, and in went the Hinoki cypress. One advantage of putting the cypress in that corner, was that I could hide all those sunburnt needles on the side facing the fence. As Nigel wiggled it around in an attempt to hide as much of its unattractive backside as possible, it prompted a crack from him about the term "Tannenbum" -- being the ugly side of the Christmas tree, always turned to the wall.

No one puts Baby in a corner, but apparently you can put a Hinoki cypress there.

Once I had moved the cypress, it was time to plant two new trees -- the Magnolia macrophylla and the Acer palmatum 'Akane.' Since I had left a full 12 feet all around the Hinoki cypress to leave room for its skirt, I thought I might be able to get away with replacing it with two deciduous trees. So I planted my new Japanese maple Acer palmatum 'Akane' in the full sun front bed as well. I have always heard that Japanese maples need shade too, but my buddy Peter The Outlaw Gardener, who has been encouraging me to get a Japanese maple, told me there were many that could take full sun. According to the tag it can, so we'll see.

It's a skinny tree.
Nigel says it looks like I planted a mop. Loree of Danger Garden has named her bigleaf Magnolia "Clifford." Perhaps I'll call mine "Mopsy." Too many of the plants growing in my garden can be called "Flopsy." I guess all I need now is a plant that I can name "Peter," and I'll have a Beatrix Potter trifecta. I know -- I'll call my new Japanese maple "Peter."

There are leaves popping out on the trunk

A cluster of big leaves against the blue sky

Even though it's still just a baby, the leaves are a good size.

The Japanese maple is dwarfed by a money plant in the bed near it.

Did you follow all that? It's kind of like the song "There was an old woman who swallowed a fly." I moved the cypress to make a spot for the Magnolia and the Japanese maple, and then I moved the spruce to make room for the cypress. The spruce is now living in a pot, so I guess that's the third item I tried to juggle, but dropped.

'Fat Albert' spruce in a pot

Stay tuned for Part Two and Part Three of Juggling Trees and Shrubs.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pacific Coast Iris in My Garden

One of the first plants that I got for free at my first PNW plant exchange, several years ago when we first moved here, was a number of different Pacific Coast Iris hybrids. They've been divided once since then, and are blooming now.

This one was labeled 'Broadleigh Rose.'

It starts out more orange when it first opens, and ages to a lighter shade.

I've lost the tag for this one. It's pretty, but I prefer the colors in 'Broadleigh Rose.'

I love the veins on all of them.

I featured this one, called 'Fruit Market,' in a recent post. It was the first to start blooming.

Like 'Broadleigh Rose' the flowers age to a lighter shade.

Do you notice anything odd about this one? It has four falls, instead of three like all the others.

I wonder if that makes it lucky, like finding a four-leaf clover.

I remember being surprised that there were Irises that were West Coast natives. I always thought of Irises as exotic things. Dividing and transplanting them can be tricky, but so far I've had fair luck with that. They're ok being out of the ground overnight as long as the roots don't dry out, and as long as you dig them at the right time of year (late winter/early spring). I usually put the divisions into a pail of water if I know I won't be able to get to them the same day that I dig them up.

You can read more about Pacific Coast Irises at this link: Society for Pacific Coast Native Iris.