Monday 26 July 2010 - Filed under Plants
Friday 23 July 2010 - Filed under General
Notice anything fancy? Do you see it? I am typing this post from what some might call My New iPad. But I call it Purse Computer. In case it is not perfectly clear, I am a serious nerd at heart. I love the gadgets. Ever since laptops have been a thing, I have rarely been spotted without a computer bag in tow, but it is a new day. With the arrival of Purse Computer, I am now a nerd incognito. How do I look?
Earlier this year, I staged a takeover of the neighbor’s front yard. Not because I coveted their sunlight that I don’t have in my own yard, but because I’m HELPING. Really. But as a totally innocent comparison, I tried to plant lettuce in my own yard. 5 months later, I have come to accept that nothing edible will come from my own potager. However, in the neighbor’s garden, it worked. I made lettuce. Ta Da!
Gardening next door had me more budget conscious than usual, and for the first time ever, I planted most of the garden from seed. What do you know, it works! I got a few little cilantro plants going. It seems very fancy to be able to go pluck a few leaves for a quesadilla, without having to make a special trip to the store, and without throwing away most of the bushel when I can’t get through it in time. As I’ve heard is typical, the cilantro quickly bolted, but it’ll reseed itself now, won’t it?
I’ve been really excited that people have been guerilla gardening in my guerilla garden. First lanterns and birdhouses mysteriously appeared, but now there are plants in there that I didn’t plant. At first I thought it was the actual neighbors working in their own yard, but I asked and it wasn’t them. Who knows what it is, some oniony garlicky looking bulbs, not my area of plant identification expertise.
Not all volunteer additions are winners however. Someone is apparently concerned that the peas don’t have anything to climb on, and some makeshift stakes have been added. I had read somewhere that native americans planted corn and beans together, and used the cornstalks as the support for beans, so that is why I haven’t provided anything for the peas to grow on, but I might have to replace these particular additions with some bamboo stems for a bit more natural look.
More mystery plantings. While the neighbors aren’t the ones doing the new planting, they are getting into taking care of the garden. I went to water one day and found the ground already moist. It appears they bought a brand new hose, and I’ve been seeing them sitting outside as a family, while the little girl that made the birdhouse waters the plants. I’m hoping she’s falling in love with gardening as a hobby, and in fall we can plant up the garden with cool season crops together. One day in winter I was working on some fence repairs for their dogs, she came out and helped me for hours, so she appears to have the patience of a gardener.
I haven’t had any actual success with any sort of crop. Maybe I got started too late, or maybe the morning shade is too much, but I still have hope something will happen. The peas are flowering. That’s a good sign, right?
And there is sign of an actual edible fruit: one Tomato. Here is where I out myself as the total jerk that I am. As a non-tomato eater, while I know that tomatoes are one of the most popular plants grown, I have always found them to be the most boring of plants. I never understood what the big deal was. However, now that I have planted one of my own, I’ll admit it’s pretty much a miracle that something is happening on that plant. Behold, I have made Outside Food.
Wednesday 21 July 2010 - Filed under Plants
Some people name their gardens. I have a hard time even naming pets. I have to let their names come to me, otherwise they never fit, and some weird nickname sticks. How else could you explain a dog named Pants? I’ve never thought of any particular title for my garden but if it were to name itself, it would have to be denial. Drought tolerant plants next to thirsty ones. Sun lovers next to woodland plants. You will not find any trustworthy source that recommends my planting schemes. Today my post is dedicated to the sun lovers that are performing in spite of my overly optimistic planting.
I got a craving for kangaroo paws after a Germinatrix post last year softened me up, and then there was this beauty at the HPSO sale in spring, and I couldn’t resist. I’ve planted it in a spot that I thought might be my sun garden. In reality, it gets a little morning light, then shade the rest of the day. The soil is terrible, chalky and rarely watered, topped with a little compost. It won’t survive our winter, so this is it – one beautiful summer. It’s not as big as the plants I’ve seen in other people’s garden, with proper sunny conditions, but it looks good. It’s probably going on my spring shopping list from here on out. My only regret is not buying more than one.
I bought several Eucomis bulbs. Some are sited more appropriately than others, but the only one that bloomed this year is in the same shady bed as the kangaroo paw. Is this one of those stress blooms, only blooming because it thinks this is it’s last chance? Maybe but it was an exciting discovery nonetheless.
My flower blinders have started to fall away, I’ve been admiring Eremerus from afar over the last year. I like them, as far as flowers go, because they’re tall and skinny, and don’t demand a big footprint in the garden. And the 7 ft tall white ones – wow! I really wanted those. I’ve read you should plant them in the fall, so I tried my best to resist until a fall shopping trip out to Dancing Oaks, but when I found one in spring at the the HPSO show, well, these words come up too much when talking about plant sales, but again, I couldn’t resist. It’s also in that shady garden. The bloom had to reach out sideways toward the sun, but it was still a beautiful show.
Hesperaloe parviflora, or red yucca. Same shady spot, but doesn’t seem to be complaining. The flowers are growing sideways, but I think they do that anyway, don’t they? I got it for the foliage, but I haven’t yet had the impulse to cut off the coral flowers, they’ve really grown on me. If I can believe the plant tag, it’ll start blooming in early summer, with continuous rebloom for nearly year round flowers. Surely “nearly year round” is an exaggeration?
I’m completely in love with Echium wildpretii right now. I found myself wandering the garden, little plant in hand, trying to find the very best spot for such a sun lover. I’ve come up with a place, on the edge of some dappled shade of a birch tree, where the afternoon sun filters through the wood slats of the fence. I’m sure it would be bigger and better in more sun, but it’s tripled in size since I planted it a few months ago, and doesn’t look like it’s complaining. It may be my favorite new plant this year.
Sometimes my denial planting works out just right. I got captivated by the cobweb covered leaves of Tradescantia sillamontana and grabbed it up as a last minute impulse purchase. Not til I got home, did I realize that it gets magenta flowers most of the summer through fall. I’ve said I was softening toward flowers, but I don’t think I’m ready for magenta. I’ve let enough reds, yellows, and oranges creep into my garden, the thought of magenta clashing with them makes me cringe. But many times, while my sun lovers survive their shady positions, they don’t always flower. Maybe I’ll get lucky and keep it just happy enough to produce lots of velvety leaves.
Too much blogging about the plants at Cistus Nursery? Not possible. Either you are lucky enough to be able to visit frequently but you can’t get enough, or you aren’t able to visit, and it is our duty as Portlanders to share the experience.
Bromeliad Fascicularia pitcairnifolia (with correct spelling of the genus this time, thanks Loree). Leaves are divine as is, but as a bonus, it gets sky-blue blossoms surrounded by burgundy leaves. As much as I’m in love with agaves, it’s so hard to find a good sunny spot for the sun worshipers in my yard, and I’m a big failure at overwintering non-hardy plants indoors. Fascicularia says it takes some shade, likes cool conditions, and has recovered from 0F in zone 7. Now that, I can do. I made the trip looking for a Yucca Rostrata, but didn’t find one that was big enough to enjoy, yet small enough to afford, so I got a Fascicularia instead.
Another terrestrial bromeliad – Dyckia choristaminea. It says full sun for “best color.” Do you suppose that means I can get away with it on my mostly shady patio? It’s supposed to be hardy to upper zone 8, but a plant this tiny, just a few inches tall and wide, that wouldn’t be so hard to overwinter in a bright window.
Puya venusta shares that spiky form, spiky leaf combination of the Fascicularia and Dyckia. From the tag: “This is one of the most dazzling of the Puyas with clumping 3 ft rosettes so glaucous as to appear nearly white, and on this form the deep blue-black flowers were supported by 6-8 ft stems of nice pink.” Also hardy in zone 8 with well drained soil.
Back to plants I have no business looking at – Agave ornithobroma. The leaves are soft and cylindrical, almost like a thick leaved rush. Hardy to zone 9/10, although the tag says they’ve been growing it here in the ground and it has survived the last few years, so if you were inclined to press your luck, maybe this is a candidate.
I forget sometimes what a fantastic fern collection they have at Cistus. Lots of really interesting unusual varieties. Phlebodium pseudoaureum (blue rabbits foot fern) is a small one, about a foot tall. The tag says the fuzzy glaucous leaves make good cut foliage. Some day we really must talk more about the ferns.
Friday 9 July 2010 - Filed under General
It was love at first sight with the velvety ground-hugging perennial at the Chinese Garden, that nobody seemed to recognize. Finally I got a plant name – Saruma henryi. A cousin of the Asarum (wild ginger) – the name is an anagram. Of course, in plant hunting, knowing the name is only half the battle. Some plants keep you looking for years. I’ve been on the prowl for Saruma henryi since 2008. I did see it last year in the Plant Delights catalog. I would have ordered it, but every time I go to their site, I wildly fill up my shopping cart with way more plants than I ought to be buying, and then I chicken out.
Last weekend, I was out at our local cult favorite nursery, Cistus, and there it was, tucked into the greenhouse. I guess I’m a true plant nerd, emphasis on the nerd, because my little plant discovery had me hollering to everyone in earshot “oh my god! I found it!” There were apparently no fellow plant stalkers around, because nobody offered me a high five. They mostly attempted to avoid eye contact with the crazy lady.
My ever-eroding position on flower snobbery is on even shakier ground now, the plant is topped with yellow flowers spring – summer. There’s no way I’m cutting them off prematurely like I do with a lot of my flowers. Plant delights tells me I’ll have a few self-sown seedlings after the plant’s second year. In a plant that’s been so hard to track down, any volunteers I can coax are welcome in my garden. The worst part about being an obsessive plant collector, is that the thrill is in the chase. Now that I’ve got it, I need to find a new plant to stalk. Any ideas?
Wednesday 30 June 2010 - Filed under General
I had a day off a couple weeks ago, and decide to make a day trip of it, visiting nurseries and gardens. My mom and I headed off to Eugene, to spend some time at Gossler Farms, then Greer Gardens, and then we were going to try a nursery that we always see off I5 on the drive down there, and possibly make our first visit to the The Oregon Garden in Silverton. Ha. We drove the two hours to our first destination. I made it about 10 minutes before my back decided to lock up again again. I hobbled back to the car, where drove straight back to the city just in time for rush hour traffic.
Fortunately it wasn’t all a bust. I got some pictures of good plants before I had to call it quits. I would have liked to come away with more to show for four hours worth of driving, but at least I have the memories of some great plants.
While I don’t care much for roses, this is the one you grow for the thorns, not flowers, and I’ve always loved those thorns. I’ve seen some around that look rather messy, but at Gossler, they cut theirs down to a foot each March, which leaves a much tidier looking plant. They don’t get flowers this way, but who needs them when the thorns are the star of the show?
Fiscularia bicolor ‘Spinner’s Form
Do you ever see a plant and wonder how it’s possible you’ve gone so long without being aware of its existence? Fiscularia somehow has never been on my radar, but sounds like it should be. It’s that spiky. jagged, draws-blood-when-you-touch-it form us plant nerds love. Unless I’m in denial, I read the tag to mean that I can grow it in my garden where the similar looking sun-lovers don’t thrive. From the catalog:
This bizarre Chilean plant came to us indirectly from Spinners Nursery in England. F. bicolor is a bromeliad with narrow jagged edged leaves. When mature in the late summer the center of the leaves will turn fiery red. The blooms are baby blue and are a wild combination of colors. After blooming the red leaves will turn green. A great container plant for cool moist areas.
Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Esk Sunset’
Amazing color variation on Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Esk Sunset’ – white splashed leaves on top, while the backs of the leaves are purplish. The leaves glow pinkish when the sun hits them. You can see a hint of the sunlit color in the background in the picture.
Astrantia major ‘Sunningdale Variegated’
I’m going to attempt my road trip once again soon. Here’s hoping this time I actually get to shop and bring some of these new guys home.
Thursday 24 June 2010 - Filed under Plants
Echium death star is one of many plants I wish I could grow in my Portland garden, but I’m a zone or two outside of it’s range, and lacking the sunny spot and poor soil it would thrive in. I might get the chance to grow it as an annual some years, but I’m destined to mostly admire it from afar. I saw this particular plant at a local nursery a couple years ago before I knew what I was looking at. How I wish I could go back and pluck the leaf debris out of the picture.
This is my first year with a few test Echiums in the garden, hoping for a show of lush foliage, which is all I want out of a plant. Growing Echiums in Portland, I’ll probably never see that display of dozens of flower spikes that our Californian friends rave about. I’m a grinch when it comes to flowers, so that’s fine with me, but I did get one flower on my E. Star of Madeira this year. I waited patiently until it seemed like it had been a polite amount of time to let it flower and attract bees, and cut it down as soon as it showed signs of browning, and now I can enjoy the foliage again. I know, as a gardener, I’m supposed to love flowers, but I just don’t.
While I don’t have the hot, sunny, dry, mild winter conditions for an Echium, I notice one of my hardy staples doing its best impersonation: Lysimachia Paridiformis F. Stenophylla, from Western China. It’s a low growing perennial, none of that crazy impressive 6 foot spread you see out of Echiums. Still, the foliage has the same gorgeous shape, although the leaves are leathery and glossy on the Lysimachia, rather than the matte sage-like texture of Echium.
In fall the green fades, leaving just red/gold leaves that stick around all winter. They’re evergreen, but I trim off the old leaves as the fresh growth begins to emerge. You don’t see this plant for sale very often around here, but if you come across it, I recommend you grab it.
Friday 18 June 2010 - Filed under Plants
There are many big dramatic plants I love and work hard for, because it’s worth it to ruin your back to dig a bog for a huge gunnera, or to feed and water the bananas and papyrus for a lush tropical summer garden. However, they can’t all be high maintenance, or I wouldn’t stand a chance getting on top of the garden chores. Today, an ode to the some high drama plants that ask for very little love in return.
I don’t really mind our record rain this spring. When it comes to leaves, I have a bigger is better attitude when it comes to my garden, and the rain seems to be helping in that department. Plume poppy leaves are usually big, but I measured the largest here at 18″ across, that’s a record in my garden.
Sadly I had to take my record breaking plume poppy out, since it was overshadowing my biggest banana, which I also hope to grow to new heights this year. There’s not enough sun to share in my garden, so that plume poppy had to go. Not to worry, there are plenty more. I have mentioned before, they reseed enthusiastically. I’d almost call them weedy, but it hardly seems like weeding when you don’t even have to bend over to gently pluck the tall stems out from wherever they’re unwelcome. I wish I could say the same for the obnoxious blackberries behind the banana. I’ll have to plan a day around excavating those.
Removing such a big plume poppy was a good opportunity to get a good look at the leaves. The top is a glaucous green, while the undersides are a soft, nearly furry silver. When the wind blows, you get flashes of the silver dancing in the garden. I don’t think movement gets enough attention as a design element in the garden, but plants that sway in the breeze make me swoon.
Years of battling blackberries hasn’t yet deterred me from growing their relative and enthusiastic garden runner, Rubus lineatus, for the gorgeous pleated leaves. The texture is what gets me with this plant, but this is the first year where they’ve crept into big-leaf category. I didn’t notice the leaf spots until I got a good look at the picture indoors. I hope that’s not some terrible disease that’s going to cost me the plant.
Some of my plants just aren’t photogenic but simply stunning in person. I have to give Aruncus dioicus credit, not only for being gorgeous, but for being the lowest maintenance plant I own. It’s located back in my not-quite-under control area of the garden, where weeds are always trying to encroach, and my hose doesn’t reach for frequent watering. That’s a plant thriving in dry shade in poor weed infested soil. Very handy for a tough spot, if you have one. You can’t really tell from the picture how HUGE it is, but keep in mind, for scale, the fence behind it is 6 feet tall, which makes it about 8 feet tall and wide. When it’s in full bloom like this, it almost reminds me of a pampas grass, without any of the downside.
My big Aruncus seems to appreciate the neglect. I have another plant in a better cared for section of the garden, that is nowhere near as vigorous. There are a bunch of smaller named varieties, but mine both came tagged the same.
The flowers on the smaller plant have a finer quality, although they’re still in the process of opening up, they’ll get a little fuzzier as time goes on. I have a terrible time keeping Asilbes happy, but Aruncus look like an Astilbe on steroids, and they’re not such drama queens about getting tons of water.
On the other end of the spectrum, the dwarf Aruncus aethusifolius tops out at about 10″ tall, but spreads nicely. These buggers have especially good looking leaves, and look fantastic from the time they leaf out, Mid March for me, to the end of fall when they get some good reddish tones. The interesting skeletons of the flowers stick around until I cut them off in spring.
The flowers are similar to the big plants, white gooseneck sprays. I bought five plants in four inch pots several years back. I have them planted in part sun in a spot I never remember to water where they have slowly, pleasantly spread into tidy clumps that look pretty fantastic politely peeking over the edge of the walk.
They have some of the best acanthus I’ve ever seen growing in the gardens in front of Portland’s World Trade Center. Big, glossy, deep green leaves that always seem to make it through the winter intact.
This, I don’t understand. I see someone got ahold of some vacant ground in there and blanketed it with some color spots. Hopefully they confine their new planting efforts to this small space. I’d be heartbroken to one day find those acanthus replaced by some boring goofy installation.
I stopped a couple weeks ago to get a closer look at a plant that had been catching my eye on a busy North Portland street on my drive home. At a pedestrian’s pace, I couldn’t turn around without seeing irrepressible gardens behind bars.
Honestly, everywhere I turned, there was more, it’s mind blowing how much is happening around here. A previously vacant lot has been replaced with a rather professional looking operation. Right off that same busy street I started out on.
Sure enough, this is the work of an organization, not an individual. Around the corner I noticed a building which I have somehow driven past for a year without noticing. It turns out it is the North Portland Farm of ProjectGrow, a community operation that aims to enrich the lives of developmentally disabled adults through art, farming, and yoga. The garden is their North Portland Farm, from which they run a Community Supported Agriculture program that bike-delivers fruits and veggies, herbs, eggs, goat fiber (!!), and flowers to restaurants within a 2 mile radius. Right here in the neighborhood. Very impressed.