Thursday, September 30, 2010

Whose Eggs are These?


The other day, while on my morning walkabout, I noticed these strange little eggs on the stem of my Pennisetum spatheolatum. I can't figure out for sure what type of eggs they are. There was a ladybug perched on the blossom at the end of the stem...but that could be a coincidence. I did a Google search and most of the photos show ladybug eggs being a sort of yellowish-orange and are laid in sheets of a few dozen on the underside of leaves, not circling stems like this, and not in this quantity! Does anybody know what type of eggs these are...just curious.


I checked them again today, just to see if I could get a better pic, and the eggs have actually turned weird!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Knot a Weed!

Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Taurus' and Schizachyrium scoparium, 'The Blues' Little Bluestem

Ahhh, the lovely, indispensable (and unfortunately named) knotweed, Persicaria.

Growing up in the midwest, we actually had knotweed growing in shady portions of our garden, amongst the hostas and (shudder) bishops weed. It was small, spindly and not much to look at, with little pink bottlebrush blossoms and, I'll admit, a weedy demeanor. Unbeknownst to me at the time, there was a host of garden-worthy varieties already being used (mostly in Europe). Who knows who it was that first started championing them, but I first noticed them in the plantings of Piet Oudoulf (my hero!). He used them to great effect, in large swaths, as edgers, and mixed in with other wild-looking plants like Rattlesnake Master, Sanguisorbia and Eupatorium. I don't think I really even liked them at first, even then...they reminded me too much of the weed I'd battled in a previous life. I've warmed up to them considerably, however, and now love them, in almost every form they offer!

'Taurus', pictured above (and to the right), is one of my favorites. It's too early to tell how it will fare in my garden, but they've grown considerably from when first planted only a month or so ago, and are starting to really take off. I honestly thought they might have been a dwarf version of the similar plants I'd seen in other gardens, the leaves and habit seemed so tiny and compact. It seems they only needed a month to settle in, and now are starting to rapidly increase in size...granted, they were tiny plants when I got them, but they've probably tripled in size within the span of a few months. Now that it's cooler and we've gotten some nice doses of rain, they are going like gangbusters. They have not stopped flowering since they were planted (I deadheaded all the blooms at that time...but they were already flowering a week later). Their flowers are a somewhat startling shade of fucshia at first, gradually toning down to a deep, rusty red. I love how wild, yet delicate they look, and they contrast wonderfully with the Little Bluestem Grass they are paired with. Their medium-sized, heart-shaped leaves are a wonderfully vibrant shade of green, and when stressed, they mottle with lovely red and orange tones (I'm wondering if they will have fall color due to this trait, we'll wait and see).



Persicaria virginiana
This may be my favorite Persicaria, at least for the moment. I positively adore its wonderful, light green leaves with their bold mahogany chevron. They really stand out and look wonderful next to everything, plus, they are soft and sort of "quilted", I can't walk by without reaching out and squeezing the leaves. I really like them next to the 'Blackie' Sweet Potato Vine, and it even looks nice weaving through the neighboring Salvia 'Purple Majesty'. It's actually started flowering last week...and they are strangely beautiful, but not immediately noticeable.


Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon'
Ok, I admit, I wanted this plant because a neighbor grows it, and I've envied it since the day I saw it! I've seen 'Red Dragon' elsewhere and thought it was only ok. The color was dull, the stems were spindly, the flowers, very "meh". When I saw this neighbor's plant though, I realized it COULD be beautiful. She corsets and cuts hers back in early summer, just as it starts to sprawl, resulting in a lovely plant. The color does wash out a bit later on, but it's still beautiful. The burgundy leaves have chevrons of green and silver, and when backlit by the sun, it looks like stained glass.



As if all this wasn't enough, it's also really easy to propagate! Earlier this summer, I accidentally snapped a few stems off as I was weeding, and decided there was nothing to lose, so I stuck them in a glass of water. Below, you can see them a month later, they started sending out roots after only 3 days! I decided once it started sending out new leaves underwater, it was time to plant them in the garden. Below, right, is the newly-planted 'Red Dragon' cutting. I've recently noticed a few self-sown seedlings of the same plant in the garden...although, now that I know how easily cuttings root, these seedlings could just be parts of stems that have fallen on the ground and rooted.

roots-jpg persicariasprout

So, there you have it...Knotweed, aka Persicarias. They are tough, vigorous, and dare I say it, even a little whimsical...a tall order for any plant. A side note, Persicarias really haven't caught on in my area yet, and as such, are relatively hard to find in local nurseries. Luckily, I found them this spring at one of my favorite nurserieies, Joy Creek Nursery, in Scappoose, OR.

I leave you with a shot of an actual knotweed in my parking strip! It's true, just the other day, I realized I did have a "weedy" knotweed right here in my garden. It's tiny, only a few inches high, but has survived all summer and is now flower...I might even dig it up and move it into the charming would it be in front of 'Taurus'! These plants may be weeds to some, but I wouldn't be without them!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Fabolous Foliage Friday - September 24, 2010

Macleya cordata, otherwise known as "Plume Poppy"
Soon to find a home in a stock tank in my driveway :-)
Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Alas, Poor Erysimum, I Knew Him Well...

Alas, one of my trio of Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve' seems to have bitten the dust. Above you can see the sad, declining plant sandwiched between one of its fellow Erysimums and Agastache 'Golden Jubilee'. Below you can see how splendid the Erysimum looked earlier this year, when they made a stunning combination with the lovely chartreuse foliage of 'Golden Jubilee', wow, seems like forever ago, doesn't it!

I've had similar luck with Erysimum in the past, they look fabulous in cooler weather, then sulk during our hot, dry summers, but they usually perk up again in the fall. Although 2 of the 3 followed this prescribed course of action, one of them is looking decidedly the worse for wear. I'm not sure if it got too much moisture, not enough, etc. One other bonus for the Erysimum is that they are pretty much evergreen and start blooming in March or April, way sooner than most plants in my garden. Now I'm faced with a decision, do I yank it out and replace it with another Erysimum, do I adopt a wait-and-see attitude to see if it recovers, or do I replace it with something else entirely?

In all honesty, while I love Erysimum, they are fairly short-lived, at least for me. They seem to bloom insanely for a year or so, but end up blooming themselves to death, leaving me with the bi-annual task of replanting them. I'm also somewhat bad at pulling the plug. I have a tendency to keep nursing plants along far beyond what I should, only to be discouraged at a plant that denies me the satisfaction of recovery. I haven't seen them in nurseries at all this spring, which may solve the problem for me right there...has anyone had luck propagating these puppies?

Argh! What should I do????


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

HPSO Fall Plant Sale...or, What I Did This Weekend

Miscanthus 'Purpurescens'

Well, this past weekend was one of my favorite events of the gardening year...the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's annual Fall Plant Sale! I can never decide which of their sales I like more, the spring one, or the autumn one. The spring one is like a balm to my spirits after a long, rainy winter, but the fall one usually has more plants that I love...especially the grasses, which are just so hard to judge early in the season when they are just a few, tiny blades in a pot.
Any-hoo, it was a great sale, I always enjoy just wandering around and checking out all the booths, there are so many wonderful specialty nurseries, and I love seeing new and interesting plants! I only had 2 plants that I was specifically looking for, some Astrantia and a Vernonia, other than that, I was willing to go where the plant gods willed!


Astrantia major
My first purchase happened surprisingly fast. I found 3 Astrantia Major at one of the first booths I stopped at. I bought some A. Major 'Abbey Road' earlier this year from Portland Nursery, but really wanted more in another color to mix in with them. I got these from Collector's Nursery, which is located in Battle Ground, WA. These Astrantia are supposed to have white flowers with a tinge of pink, which should be lovely mixed in with 'Abbey Road'. I'm hoping they do better in this spot than the Echinacea which I really wanted to grow there...but whether I wanted to believe it or not, it's really not full sun, so the Echinacea were decidedly unhappy. After a full year here at the house, I'm finally getting a grasp of the crazy light conditions here. The strange mix of sun/shade/slope continues to pose a challenge.
Geranium macrorrhizum
My next purchase (also from Collector's Nursery) was a trio of Geranium Macrorrhizum. I've been thinking of replacing the Ajuga that grows near the base of the mighty Joe Pye Weed, and upon seeing these beauties, decided they fit the bill, growing well in part shade and spreading over time to form a nice ground cover. They actually had 2 different varieties of Geranium at the booth, this one with white flowers and another with pink flowers. I ended up choosing this one, however, solely because of its foliage. It's soft and velvety and has the most alluring scent. I can't quite describe it, those who've grown them before will know what it is, sort of woodsy, almost like a very light incense.


Pennisetum spatheolatum
Now, I have to admit, I LOVE grasses. I don't know if it's my prairie roots, but I really adore them. That being said, I knew immediately upon seeing this grass, that I wanted it!

Now, as anyone who goes to these plant sales knows, every year there is one plant that seems to inspire plant lust. Unbeknownst to me, this grass was "it" this year. It's not hard to see why, it's a delicate grass, with very small, very charming flower heads. It's so finely textured as to be almost transparent, think of it as a diminuitive version of a Molina. I saw it across the room at the Wind Dancer Gardens booth, made a bee line across the room, and grabbed it, much to my partner's disdain (he's not very fond of grasses). Being bored, he sat at a table with the plants I'd chosen up to that point while I wandered around some more. Upon returning, he was very annoyed, apparently, around a dozen people had asked him what plant it was and where to find it. Not knowing (or caring) much about plants, he could only shrug his shoulders and offer a "dunno".


Miscanthus 'Purpurescens'
The last plant I bought was this grass, also known as "Flame Grass", from Out In The Garden Nursery, which is located in Molalla, OR. I've actually been looking for this grass all year, ever since seeing a photo of it growing in a huge colony in some botanical garden (maybe in Chicago, can't quite remember). Anyway, being a sucker for grasses to begin with, but especially for grasses with good autumn color, this one was a no-brainer. I love the rich colors it turns in the fall, and being a Miscanthus, looks good pretty much all year long. It has nice medium-sized blades and a lovely fountain-like form. I popped in in the garden next to an Amsonia, hoping the two will look good together in a few years, when the Amsonia hits it's stride and looks like more than a few spindly stems.

All in all, it was a fun sale! As always, there were many things I could have bought, but both money and space are limiting factors. As much as I'd love to have some of those shrubs, there just isn't room in my teeny-tiny garden. Then again, it sure motivates me to start clearing out the back yard to make room for more plants :-) Oh, and the only Vernonia I saw was in someone else's hands...they got their from the Dancing Oaks booth, but there were sold out...guess I'll be heading down to Salem soon :-)

Friday, September 17, 2010

One Heckuva Rudbeckia

RudbeckiaTrilobaVignette2 (2)
Rudbeckia triloba
A few weeks ago, I posted about my ongoing love affair with Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta). Now, I still maintain that the common BES is a standout garden plant, being tough, vigorous and free-flowering. There is, however, a Rudbeckia I like even more...Rudbecia triloba, the Brown-Eyed Susan. Pictured above just as it started flowering about a month ago, it is reputed to be a short-lived perennial (sometimes biennial). The triloba part of it's name comes from the fact that the basal leaves have 3 lobes, however, the rest of the leaves look like regular Rudbeckia leaves. I remember first seeing them growing a few years ago in a neighbor's garden on Alberta St. in NE Portland. There was just something about their loose, open branching habit and intensely heavy flowering that really struck me. They get between 3-5 feet tall, depending on garden conditions (mine are almost 6' tall...probably thanks to the partial shade).

brushingthesky crazyrudbecia

Above you can see them a few days ago, they are now flowering heavily and are a veritable cloud of yellow blossoms covered in bees. This is the biggest difference between this Rudbeckia an the more commonly grown variety. While it's flowers are significantly smaller, they are borne is an amazing profusion...instead of dozens of blooms, you get HUNDREDS! This is one plant that I don't stake...I really enjoy how it opens up as it gets larger and sort of insinuates itself amongst neighboring plants. At this point in the season it's almost 6' across, if you count all the sprawling branches. I love the diffuse effect it's a lot of color, but in such small doses. The photo below, believe it or not, is only 1 SINGLE PLANT!


I'm hoping it does self-seed a bit, I'd really like to have more next year, especially if we plant the parking strips. I have a wonderful vision of tall grasses interplanted with these Rudbeckias, Joe Pye Weed, Ironweed, etc., a wonderful, no-holds-barred, prarie-esque planting.

rudbeckiavignette7 rudbeckiavignette4

Although easy to grow, Rudbeckia Triloba is not so easy to find. After searching all last summer for some, I finally found a plant at the Fall HPSO sale (which is this weekend...YAY!) and snatched it up without hesitation! Of course, I always recommend you get plants locally whenever possible, for numerous reasons, but if you can't find it locally, I've seen it offered online at Annie's Annuals, which is one of the coolest nurseries out there...I can spend hours ogling the plant selections!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sedums Change


The 'Autumn Joy' Sedums continue their fall progression of colors, now that they are in full bloom they are lovely, soft-pink landing platforms for the army of bees that swarm around them constantly. Strangely, while the bumblebees adore the Joe Pye Weed (whose form is remarkably like the sedum) they don't seem to frequent the Sedum, which is favored by the smaller honeybees. My little patch of sedum practically looks like the bee version of Studio 54...especially with all the gold lamé and the bees doing lines of pollen ;-)


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Needed This...


After a truly horrific week at work which resulted in me only getting a few hours of sleep for 3 days in a row, I was felling pretty run down and emotionally drained. In addition to the stress at work, we got a really heavy, sudden rainstorm on Tuesday (I believe) last week that wreaked havoc in the garden. I kind of dread the fist rainfall of the season...not because I dislike rain...I LOVE rain...but it's really hard on the plants (who just aren't used to the extra weight). I came home after work to find many plants had just collapsed under the pounding rain...the Joe Pye Weed...the Rudbeckia Triloba...the Verbena bonariensis...the various salvias...worst of giant stand of Pokeweed that I've been growing in the backyard (volunteers that are in their 2nd season and were about 12' tall) had completely collapsed...which really surprised me. I was pretty bummed about it...and compounded by the utter insanity at work...I felt zombie-fied :-( Luckily, this weekend, we decided to just take it easy...sure we could have worked more on tiling the rest of the kitchen...the garden could use a little sprucing up...but we just relaxed...and I'm glad! Anyway...on Saturday, as we were poking around the house, we noticed this fat little bumblebee trying to get at the Agastache blooms. The poor thing would latch onto one of the tubular flowers and immediately, the whole stem would droop down under it's weight...we must have followed it around, laughing at it for 15 minutes...our neighbors officially think we're nuts :-) Luckily, now that I'm a little recuperated, I can catch up on all the other garden blogs!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kitchen Update - Sept. 7, 2010

Here you can see the difference between grouted and un-grouted.

Grouting time! We finally got around to grouting the backsplash this weekend, which was much easier than I thought it would be...although it was MESSY. We chose white grout, as we figured a darker color would just draw attention to any...ummm...imperfections in our workmanship ;-)

backsplashandcounteredge backsplashandfaucet
Right:Edge of Counter and Tile Left: Sink and Grouted Tiles

It actually went pretty fast, but all the smaller, cramped areas were a big pain to get at, and by the end, my back was killing me. Nevertheless, we grouted and cleared off the excess and are really pleased with the results! It's amazing how different it looks with the grout in, it looks like it's been there forever, and I can barely remember how it looked before.

Finished, grouted tiles...whew!

We have to mist the grout for 3 days before we can seal it and caulk the edges...but we are in the home on to the area above the stove!

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air


Ahhhhh...heading in to Labor Day weekend...and we have some nice, cool weather moving into the Portland area. There may even be a touch of rain, the garden will appreciate that! I may even be motivated to dig up a area on the side of the house in preparation for the approaching Hardy Plant Society Sale in a few weeks! Mark your calendars, everyone, for Sept. 18-19 at the Expo Center...I can hardly wait (although my pocketbook is cringing in anticipation).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kitchen Progress Update - 9-1-2010

Well, we are making progress in the kitchen, once again! Below you can see the kitchen soon after we moved in. The paint color was a dull, faded and dingy yellow, the cabinets were old wood cabinets with doors that didn't shut and drawers that were on those old wooden runners. The backsplash and counters were that weird sheet vinyl stuff and the floors...well...can't even begin to describe how awful they are...weird linoleum that looks like vomit, except were it's worn and water-damaged, there it is black...lovely!

Kitchen soon after moving in, dingy paint, impractical cabinets and linoleum for days, you can see our paint samples on the wall

We painted first (white trim, red walls) and that was followed this winter by the upper and lower cabinets, along with a new sink and (drumroll) a DISHWASHER!!! I don't know how we could have afforded it before Ikea came to town. Even though it took about a month, we saved over $1,000 by installing everything ourselves. This spring, we finally got around to putting in the cabinets above the stove (a used gas stove which we found for $75 on Craigslist) and the microwave/vent/light/hood.

Kitchen this spring, with all the cabinets finally installed!

We have been debating for a while what to do with the floors and backsplash. Honestly, I would like to paint the floors for the time being...anything to cover up the horrible linoleum, but we decided to just bite the bullet and tile everything. We settle on white subway tile for the backsplash and white chicken-wire tile (hex tile) for the floors (with a black border).

dal trim
Here is the tile we chose, white 3x6 subway tile and 1x6 trim

The hardest part (as seems to be the case for me most of the time) was trying to figure out the best way to start...we measured things, pre-cut most of the pieces we could and then dove in. Cutting the odd shapes to fit around outlets, the sink and window frames was the hardest part, and we ended up wasting A LOT of tile...I guess that's why you always get more than you think you'll need.
It's true what they say, measure twice, cut once...although we still ended up cutting 4-5 times

Using the cutter looks so easy on all the videos I watched, but was not super-accurate...we had a lot of tiles that were just a little too short or too long...or not quite even.

cutter bits&pieces
The tile-cutter, my nemesis...and wasted tile pieces. We figured we'd save them for now, however, as they may be the right size for future odd spaces on other parts of the wall.

tiles Putting on the thin-set was pretty straight-forward, you slather it on, smooth it out and then use the notched side of the trowel to "score" it...making lots of little groves in the thin-set. Then you basically start putting the tiles in place, using the little plastic spacers to maintain proper, well, spacing! It's kind of tedious when you are working on areas with lots of odd cut-outs and what-not, but once you are on open, bare wall, you can go pretty quickly, which is good, because the thin-set starts to harden pretty quickly...I think you are only supposed to spread out 15' at a time to make sure it doesn't harden before you're done.
Here are the tiles set in the thin-set, with spacers to keep them aligned correctly.

And here we are...VOILA! We still have to mortar them in, but will probably wait until next weekend to do that part...we're thinking of using white mortar. We're a little nervous that dark mortar will just draw attention to any unevenness in spacing :-) After that, we'll do the tiling behind and above the stove and then, finally, we'll address the floor. Whew!