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 :-)


  1. Those are some great finds - agree with you on the grasses, they are just the best this time of year...

  2. All great choices, especially that Pennisetum. It looks so sweet and charming in your picture, it probably looks even more so in person. Love that Miscanthus too, in fact, I was just Googling it the other day. I saw a picture of it online, and was trying to see if any online nurseries sold it. I've heard Miscanthus can be very vigorous, so that kind of scared me off. Love Geraniums too, and over the weekend I got an Astrantia started from seed at a swap.

    You're so conscientious, you already have them planted in your garden. I'm so lazy.

  3. How have you already planted these things!!! Good god man! Nice purchases, I was very heavy into the grasses for a long while and then I sort of backed off. I think I'm feeling the bug again, you're not helping!

    I do feel sorry for your abandoned partner, having to fend off all that crazy plant lust (and I love that you're using that phrase). He just needs to get with the plant program...but at least he went to the sale with you!

    BTW I was driving along on Sat afternoon (my visiting friend and I went out shopping after the sale) and I passed a street sign that said "Rhone" naturally I glanced up the street to see if anything looked familiar. It did not.

  4. It sounds like a fun shopping day. Love the Miscanthus 'Purpurescens'. I have tried a few grasses in my containers, but so far nothing that will survive my harsh winters.

    My BIL has the grass with the gorgeous white plumes, which does overwinter. The only problem is that he has to put twine around it to keep it upright...it is very tall. That just spoils the look to me. I don't want anything I have to stake (or rope).

    I hope your grasses are successful and I hope to see them in your garden next year!

  5. Thanks everyone!

    Cyndy: I know...I just love them...I only wish I had more room...oh yeah, and $$$!

    DangerGarden: Hahahaha...I actually took the day off work and decided I would put it to good use. It's way more typical for things to sit on my sidewalk for WEEKS after purchasing before I guiltily try to find places for them. OMG...you were in our 'hood! We are down on 16th...if you see a guy outside in pajama pants and slippers with crazy, messy hair...that's me!

    Zoey: I hope you can find some hardy grasses...I think the Panicums are pretty hardy...you might want to look them up. I only really have trouble with some of the Pennisetums flopping, mostly because they aren't getting as much sun as they like :-(

  6. Hi, Everthing looks lovely! Plant sales are one of the very best ways to spend a day:-)
    Thnaks so much for stopping by!

  7. I have a couple of large stands of Miscanthus 'Purpurescens' and I so very glad I planted them about three years ago. They're a big part of the fall color garden, and very different in form from the Miscanthus sinensis (in all its various forms). I tried a few Astrantias this year but a groundhog has eaten them all back, and continues to do so. But I hope for the future.

  8. It sounds like a great plant sale, with a good variety of plants. Your Geranium macrorrhizum settled right in and looks like it has been growing there all season. I love hardy geraniums in the garden. I've been picking up some Tiarella and Heucherella to add to the garden, but we're coming to the end of planting season here.

  9. I wish I had more room in my garden and a bit of a warmer climate. There are so many grasses on my wish list and many that I can only admire in blogs. Miscanthus really does not do well at all in my garden but I think you've made a great purchase with this "flame" variety. Just the perfect grass for this time of year too - the colours are so good.

    I grow lots of geraniums and those few new purchases will have filled that area I'm sure within the next year or so and you'll probably get 2 flowering seasons aswell from them. :)

  10. Ooooh, plant sales! So much fun. I'm very impressed with your restraint in buying only what you knew you could fit into your garden. I'm always buying more than what will fit and then having to dig up more lawn to make way for the new plants! A small problem with plant addiction...

  11. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    Bella: Totally, I love me a plant sale!

    James: I bet they're awesome in your garden...I'll have to poke around and see if I can find some pics. Sorry about your Astrantia...I think we gardeners survive on hope!

    Northern Shade: It was a wonderful sale...I hope your Tiarella and Heucherellas do well, they are such wonderful, adaptable plants!

    Leavesnbloom: It can be really frustrating having to deal with zonal restrictions...look into the Panicums...they are pretty hardy.

    gardenjunkiesblog: I'm trying to be good this year, I'm running out of room in the garden and don't have TOO much more lawn to dig up!

  12. You are so lucky to have just missed that plant, if, that is, it prompts a visit to Dancing Oaks. It is a wonderland, well worth the long drive.

  13. Just for the record, I wasn't that annoyed. I just didn't know what to tell people besides pointing at the label and shrugging my shoulders.

    Although my iPhone game kept me preoccupied, I did learn patience sitting at the table with the other non-plant buyers (i.e. children and a Japanese tourist couple that seemed to have been dragged to the sale).

  14. Dear Scott,
    I too love vernonia, but its common name is Ironweed -- for a good reason. It is actually, I believe, considered a weed here in the northeast. So no need to wait for plants. It is VERY easy and foolproof to start from seed. The plants grow tall and flower the next year. I have a few clumps in my gardens started from seed. I got the seeds from (I think)Diane's Daylilies on the web. If you need more info, just comment back, and I'll try to answer.

  15. Boy do I love plants sales and grasses! I envy you as it sounds like a great plant sale. That pennisetum is so delicate. I'll have to start looking for it.

  16. I perfectly understand your spring versus autumn plant sale conundrum but both are musts. Geranium macrorrhizum clumps up quite quickly Scott and is good ground cover although it does not flower for long here. I have never been able to make my mind up about the aroma. I laughed at your description of your partner waiting for you and guarding your plants but not being able to help those who coveted them. Have been there myself on many occasions :)