Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Happy Surprise x 3


Sometimes I realize that I am a bad gardener. My worst offense is the impulse buy. I'm walking though a nursery looking for the one thing I actually want, when "BAM", I see something that I forgot I wanted, or never knew I wanted, or suddenly feel like I should want. Inevitably, once I get it home I suddenly have that all-too-familiar feeling. I didn't plan for this when I spent all winter making blueprints of the garden. Those blueprints were going to help me get organized...remember, no more plants crammed into spots that were too small, behind plants that would overshadow them...ugh. Fist off is one of my biggest weaknesses. BULBS. I always want them in the spring, when everyone else's yard is full of sunny daffodils; bright, cheery tulips; and richly colored poppies. If only we could plant bulbs in the would be so much more logical. Once fall rolls around, I'm tired, it's cold and rainy out, and there is just a feeling of contentment...I just want the season to end with the last hurrah or the grasses, the amsonia, the sedums...etc. Last fall I actually bought some bulbs. A pack of 'Queen of the Night' know, those dark maroon, almost black ones...yup. They came with about 20 or so drumstick alliums as well...which I always find so pleasing in magazines...mixed in with summer perennials. The problem is once I got them home, there they sat. In my office (which is much warming that a cold-storage facility...well, a little warmer) all winter long. I'd look at them every once in a while an swear that if it just didn't rain next weekend, I'd plant them. Well, I live in Portland, admittedly, I was hedging my bet. March approached and other people's daffodils were blooming and I suddenly wanted bulbs...field and fields of them...or at least as many as I could cram into my at-the-moment barren 30' x 6' garden. AHA! I remembered the sadly neglected bulbs in the office. I was pretty sure the fact that they had all sprouted in the bag meant they were not likely to live long...but decided to bravely plant them now, 6 months later than I was supposed to. With a little luck and the bulbs' sheer will to survive, I think almost all of them have managed to come up and most even bloomed. What's more, I am now enjoying my tulips in May...a month later than everyone else.


Another sad remnant of plant frenzy was a 6-pack of miniature lupines...I lost the tag soon after returning home, so cant's say for sure what they are. I had NO idea where to put them, sadly, as most of the spaces in the garden had already been spoken for. Each time I dug up some more of the yard (for other plants that I'd bought without any idea where they were going to go) I'd look over at the brave little lupines...just waiting their turn...never complaining. Finally, 2 months after I had bought them, I decided I just had to put them in around the other perennials...if they grew, so be it, if not, oh well. Sadly, only 5 seemed to still be alive...and a pang of guilt shot through me...I hadn't even given 1 of the poor fellow a chance at life. I planted them all throughout the garden...even the little cell of dirt from the poor goner. Well, guess what...they are all doing well...and that 1 that didn't make it...well, he wasn't as dead as I thought...see below!


The last little story isn't so much about me being a bad gardener as much as it's about making impetuous purchases. I LOVE the twice-a-year plant sales that the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon does here in Portland. Let me say it again. I. LOVE. THEM. I walk around, totally in a daze...completely overwhelmed by all these plants. I know alot about plants, and can pretty much tell you what any plant is pretty quickly. All of a sudden, I'm surround by plants that I have no idea of their identity. I'll also see varieties I've read about or seen in magazines, but can NEVER find in nurseries. I'm the proverbial kid in a candy store. Last fall I bought a few things (I pretty much never spend over $50, which is chump change at these sales. I routinely see people drop HUDNREDS of dollars). Anyway, one thing I bought was this really lovely perennial geranium with wonderful, dark zonal markings. I had no idea what the variety was (the tag didn't specify, as far as I could tell). I had no idea if it really flowerd much (or if the flowers were mostly inconsequential). I just loved the foliage and wanted it. At first I thought it might be 'Samobor', but a neighbor has a bunch, and there weren't the same. 'Samabor' has a dark band, but my new geranium had dark leaves with a band of green on the edges...hmmm. Oh well. Come this spring, it popped up and has grown like gangbusters. I was a little worried the shasta daisies I put behind it might crowd it out, but this thing is growing like crazy and I doubt it will need any intervention on my part to thrive. In any case, a few weeks ago, it started flowering...and I have to say, they are charming little white flowers with nice pink veining. Nothing spectacular, but a nice addition to a plant whose main appeal will always be its foliage.


UPDATE: I think the geranium is probably either 'Walter's Gift' or 'Katherine Adele'. If anyone knows for sure, I'd love to know...thanks!

After the Rain

"chases away the tears and all the pain!"


Ok, I couldn't quite resist it...sue me! Anyway, I think one of the best times in a garden are the first moments after it rains. The air is so fresh and clean, all the dust and pollutants temporarily scrubbed from the air. All the smells and colors of the garden just seem intensified for a while. Here is one of my faves after this morning's rain, 'Walkers Low' Catmint (Nepeta faassenii). I love this plant so much for so many reasons, it's long bloom time (really, most of the garden season, off and on), it's easy-going nature, it's lovely, loose and billowing habit, it's lovely bubble-gum scent...and not least of all, it's lovely cool color. Unfortunately, they grown in the middle of a bunch of Spanish Bluebells (which I didn't realize at the time I planted them, as the bluebells were already dormant). The bluebells get growing far faster than the Catmint, and their long, floppy foliage really overwhelms the catmint, causing it to grow tall, floppy and awkward, until I can cut back the bluebell foliage and the catmint after it's first flush of flowers. I think the catmint's flowers positively glow after rain. The diffused light really makes the blueish purple seem almost electric.


Oh, and here's a rain-spattered pic of Geranium 'Anne Folkard'.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gold and Blue


I think my biggest weakness in trying to design a garden is thinking in the big picture. I tend to visualize things in smaller vignettes, and sometimes when I step back and look at the garden as a whole, I'm like " is such a mess!" Nevertheless, I enjoy the little victories, such as this nice combo that has turned out pretty well, if I must say so myself. The "Golden Jubilee" Agastache has great chartreuse foliage that looks good spring, summer an fall...emerging a nice purplish color and eventually reaching the golden color it's known for. In summer, it will get lots of nice blue flowers that last for quite a while, especially if deadheaded promptly. The erysimum blooms pretty much non-stop once it starts, seemingly blooming itself to death, as they need to be replaced every few years. My partial shade garden also has a tendency to make them very leggy, so I've had to move them around to get a decent effect. Nevertheless, I'm enjoying this combo while it lasts!

ColorCombo2 ColorCombo1

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Columbine by any other name...


Well...this is a story about how plants sometimes surprise you. I've always loved columbines...pretty much every form (except for the weird pom-pom ones that just look like weird blobs). I'm partial to the old-fashioned forms, willowy, tall, with the long, back-swept spurs in alternating colors, usually white and some other color. They seem so much a typical cottage-style sort of plant. So, of course, I've always wanted to have some in my garden. This spring, I had decided to be impetuous and buy whatever columbine was the first to cross my path. It just so happened that "Tequila Sunrise" was that columbine. They photo and description seemed to indicate that this particular hybrid (this being the important part...HYBRID) had "coral red flowers with golden yellow corollas on vigorous plants." I'm not overly fond of red or yellow, to be honest, but they seemed a nice sort of spin on our native columbines, which are the same colors, but this seemed to be, perhaps, hardier and more, basically, a win-win.

I should have know...columbines are VERY promiscous and seem to have a habit of reverting to their more natural states. Now that all 3 of the plants I bought are has become obvious that they are all 3 completely different! I have no doubt they are all "Tequila Sunrise" but there is so much variation in the flowers they look like totally different varieties!


Here is the first...which I think is closest to what the flowers are intended to look like...not exactly the darkest red...but a decent show.


Here is the 2nd version...not terribly different...but the colors are definitely not as saturated and more on the peachy side of coral...the yellow is sort of buttery.


Here is my's pretty much solid yellow! Luckily, it's a lovely sort of lemonly yellow and the flowers seem a bit more dramatic, with longer, more willowy spurs...I actually like this one the most!

Now, to be completely fair...I actually was pretty happy that these 3 columbines were slightly different...they give a sort of natural sponteneity to the planting (they are all planted fairly close together) that actually works pretty nicely. I always buy plants fully expecting them to be somewhat different from what the tags (and even the internet) says, and sometimes I'm still dissapointed, sometimes, like this, it's a happy surprise!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Plant Finds! - Spring 2010 HPSO Sale

I have read about the upright, "bush" type clematis before, but have never actually seen them in anyone's garden. The minute I saw this one at the show, I knew I had to have it. You really have to see it in person to appreciate the color...a lovely, dusky purple...without the maroon undertones you usually get in purple foliage. It's also not the dark black-purple you's more on the blue side with a velvety effect. It's starting to green up (starting at the bottom) with the new growth still coming out purple. It's setting flower buds now and will probably bloom in few weeks, after which, depending on what it looks like, I may cut it down to a foot or so and let it re-sprout with new, purple foliage. Since it is the plants first year, though, I may just let it grow and get more established.

Persicaria virginiana (Tovara virginiana)
Sun Zones 3-9 Coral flowers
The leaves have bold mahogany chevron patches. Tall flower spikes create a haze of coral-pink flowers. Self sows. June to September. bloom 32 in. x 24 in. (info from Joy Creek Nursery's website)

Ever since discovering Piet Oudolf and his amazing perspective on planting and gardening, I have been looking for a persicaria to try out. Oudolf often uses them in masses in his gardens and the effect is just stunning. They have a loose, blousy effect that seems so perfectly cottagey and, well, European! I saw this variety on another website a year or so ago, and upon seeing it, snatched it up immediately. I love the foliage so much, I don't care if it ever blooms...but I'm still glad it does!

Persicaria microcephala `Red Dragon'
Sun Zones 5-9 White flowers
At last, a non-running Persicaria with chevron patterned leaves in red-purple, silver and green with distinct red midribs. A cloud of white flowers in spring. The leaf color holds up better in cooler areas. Spring bloom 37 in. x 48 in.
(info from Joy Creek Nursery's website) this plant has never impressed me until last year. Upon moving to Brooklyn, I noticed on of our neighbors had this plant growing in her yard and it was truly a sight to least 5' tall and as was the move sumptous burgundy color with those complimentary silver chevrons. I immediately knew I wanted one! I hope she agrees that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!