things and places for homes and gardens

Neighborhood garden snooping

Tuesday 16 March 2010 - Filed under Plants

yellow winter flowering thing
I was meandering through the neighborhood last weekend rubbernecking at the gardens, and remembered something Roger Gossler had said at the event at Garden Fever. He was showing winter shrubs, and pointing out that the ones with yellow berries read best from a distance. Humans need to get pretty close to see red, but yellow pops from far away. This house’s shrubs with bright yellow blooms instantly caught my eye while driving by. My blind-spot for flowers leaves me at a loss to identify it, but I appreciated the color lesson reminder. I wonder if this house recently was on the market, and these were part of the staging – mostly because, who has such fresh paint and windows this clean? Not me, anyway. Back to it though, my favorite gardens are always ones that read from a distance, which might be why I like all white flowers so much, but my monochromatic resolve has been softening, and yellow has been growing on me.

Yucca rostrata and parking strip benches
Nothing beats big beautiful sculptural foliage though for grabbing you from wherever you are observing from. I had been doing some lazy photos from the car windows (pulling over of course, safety first) when I spied these huge Yucca rostratas in a front yard garden, which absolutely stole the show. This was grounds for further investigation on foot, despite the risk of looking like a stalker when the neighbor caught me creeping up the driveway for a better look at some of the plants set back from the street. You know how some people realize a plant fanatic and forgive you your trespasses? Imagine the opposite of that. I don’t know, is the driveway not fair game? However, a different neighbor pulled over to tell me if I liked the yuccas, that I could find them at Cistus Nursery on Sauvie Island. One neighbor likes me, one…not so much.

yucca and a green hellebore
Once the sculptural drama draws me into a garden, that’s when I can start to appreciate color. I have friends who get snagged by color first, and they label me a flower hater for my complete lack of attention to most blooms, but they do hit me eventually, if the shape of the garden lures me in for a closer look. This garden was a perfect example, with really beautiful same-color pairings that never would have made me leave the comfort of the warm car on a chilly day, if not for the siren call of the yuccas, but once I was there, they called to me. Greens and yellows here, with repetition of the variegated yucca of some sort and the green flowers of the hellebore.

purple leaved rhododendron(?) with purple helleborus
And another color repetition trick in the form of and evergreen (is that a rhododendron?) leaves and stems blushed with purple, alongside purple hellebore flowers.

Camellia japonica ‘Black Magic’ (guess)
The plant that had me creeping up the driveway is what I think is Camellia japonica ‘Black Magic’ – which has wine colored flowers that look more like a waxy hibiscus bloom than a Camellia.

Chaenomeles japonica ‘Atsuya Hamada’ (guess)
Planted right behind it is what I believe is Chaenomeles japonica ‘Atsuya Hamada’ with that same dark wine bloom that’s hard to come by in winter around here.

tetrapanax stems
A hint of things to come, the brown stick-y-up-y bits are huge tetrapanax that will have traffic stopping foliage of its own in a couple months. I must make a note to stalk this garden later this year.

yucca rostrata and agave parryi v truncata (guesses)
I like to keep tabs on how the local agaves are doing, especially in a garden like this one, where I have it on good authority that these gardeners really know their stuff. The parking strip soil is built up, I’m assuming to provide good drainage. While all the Yucca rostratas look pretty unharmed by winter, the agaves look a little like my own, some of the lower leaves have lost the fight, but they seem like they’ll pull through anyway.

squid agave with winter damage
Another agave that’s done well around here in many locations, the squid agave, also showing some signs of winter weariness, but I’m sure it’ll be happy again soon, especially with this early spring we have.

Yucca rostrata
I’m surprised at how close the yuccas can be to the sidewalk without really getting in the way. In my mind, this just proves that I can find a place in my garden to shoehorn one in, preferably front and center. Having the Yucca rostratas right at the entry point to the garden was a nice exclamation point on the visit, almost serving as the garden gates you pass through, and they leave a lingering impression. I just love how they draw your eye to that one spot on the street, even on a street where there are many gardens on the block that have clearly been influenced by the trendsetters at this location. This settles it – at the end of the season of many wish lists – Yucca Rostrata tops them all as the big plant splurge coming this year.

2010-03-16  »  megan

Talkback x 7

  1. Christine B.
    16 March 2010 @ 9:36 pm

    Don’t blame you for stalking…I would too in this situation. No yuccas here, way too cold for them!

    Christine in Alaska

  2. Paige
    16 March 2010 @ 11:24 pm

    LOVE your blog. Reminds me of my friend who taught me not to fear ripping plants out to relocate. You should write a book as your prose is very inviting.

  3. jj de sousa
    17 March 2010 @ 8:22 am

    Hi Megan! FYI – The garden you are stalking in Sean Hogan’s – Cistus. Also, your photo IS indeed a rhodie – Ebony Pearl. I have one – it is lovely!

  4. Loree / danger garden
    17 March 2010 @ 8:26 am

    Your pictures really capture the feel of the garden well. Aren’t those Tetrapanax trucks just amazing?! Can’t wait to see what they look like all leafed out. Could you see all the crazy plant activity up on the covered patio too?

    Glad to hear you’ll be taking the Rostrata plunge. Have you made it to Garden Fever to buy that Squid Agave yet?

  5. ricki - sprig to twig
    17 March 2010 @ 11:58 am

    Love the sprinkling of yellow in your first photo. My problem is that it usually seems to come in masses rather that sprinkles.
    Seems like the brotherhood of gardeners should welcome you into those inviting spaces.

  6. Karen
    17 March 2010 @ 10:34 pm

    You know, I don’t really get how someone could plant things like those yuccas and then NOT expect people to creep up their driveway to see what else is there! I guess driveways count as private property, maybe better to stay on the sidewalk unless invited. At least those are my own rules, you are braver I think. I do get embarassed when caught in the act of photo-ing someone’s tree or plants, but I try to just smile and tell them how beautiful it is and how much I appreciate it, and usually they don’t look at me too funny. What could those yellow flowers be, some absurdly pruned forsythia? Winter jasmine was a while ago, like January, I think. Hm. Great find and maybe you can win this gardener over with repeat applications of admiration.

  7. Grace
    22 March 2010 @ 10:39 pm

    I’m with Karen. The gardener plants show stoppers and then gets upset when the audience offers and standing ovation? Wuz up with that?

    Love those Tetrapanax “trunks.” Mine is about two feet tall and has its first leaf. To have it be as tall as these…ooh la la.

    What a great neighborhood to go snooping through.