Monday, February 28, 2011


knautia macedonica seedling
Knautia macedonica 'Melton Pastels' right now it's really just "Seedling", but still, I was excited to see the first of the Knautia seedlings emerging last week...sadly, it's still a lone soldier in the seed tray. My cat and I are holding vigil for the remainder of the seeds. One thing is for sure with a 1 in 12 germination success rate, I'm glad I bought 3 packets of seeds :-)

Who else out there is starting seeds...are you having better luck...I certainly hope so :-)

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Snow On Metal Allium crop

I guess the weather forecasters were FINALLY right...although the amount received was certainly not worthy of the SNOWPOCALYPTIC news coverage ;-)

Snow on Pennisetum Hameln

Snow on Rudbeckia Triloba Broken

Snow on Agastache Summer Sky

Snow on Panicum Shenandoah

Snow on Parrotia Persica 2

Snow on Sedum Autumn Joy

Snow on Echinacea purpurea

Snow on Daffodil

Snow On Metal Allium

Monday, February 21, 2011

2011 Portland Yard Garden & Patio Show

Once again Portland-area gardeners descended on the Oregon Convention Center for the annual kick-off to the gardening season. While I always look forward to this event, I can't help but think it's mostly because of the time of year. Early spring brings with it a restlessness, a desire to get outside in the garden. I look at this Garden Show as a mixed bag, it has its good points, and (and like everything in life) it's not-so-good points. Along with a few sublime ideas and designs, there is also a dose of the dubious.

Portland 2011 Yard Garden & Patio Show
Here's the entrance to the show...and the place where my pulse begins to quicken ;-)

One of the first things I noticed (aside from the overpowering scent of mulch) was this display, with several small Gunnera...I would have grabbed them, stuffed them in my goodie bag, and ran for the hills if I hadn't still been sore from a climb to the top of Multnomah Falls the day before.

Unfortunately, the next thing I noticed was this ribbon of colored glass "gravel" lighted from beneath in the middle of the flagstone path. I'll admit, it has a certain quirkiness and novelty...but I'm not a fan of novelty for novelty's sake.'s a thumbs-down from me.

Luckily, right around the corner, I was greeted by this wonderful fencing idea. I've been considering a fence with panels of corrugated or galvanized metal...and this really struck a chord with me. I love the powder-coated sort of look...and wish I could have gotten a closer look...but I was soon swept away in a tidal wave of my fellow attendees to...

...a burning hazard and a drowning hazard all in one. I know, I's not supposed to inspire a literal (or practical) application...but I've never understood the appeal of the water/fire feature...could there possibly be a worse waste of resources?!? I guess this one display really sums up the thing that sort of irks me about the YG&P Show...if feels very much focused on homeowners who would hire contractors to do these sort of installations..."checkbook gardening" as it were. Of course, I would take those orange Adirondacks home in a split second!

But let's not dwell on negative things, not today! Here, at the booth for the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon, was a plant I was instantly drawn to, thanks to it's cinnamon-colored stems. The tag says Drimys lanceolata...does anyone have experience with this plant?

Now, of course, what I REALLY care about is the plants! Being so early in the season, the YG&P show features several vendors specializing in bulbs and bare-root plants. I decided before I even stepped into the Convention Center that any plant I would buy had to meet several criteria.

A) Must have a long-season of interest (bonus for attractive foliage)
B) Must not be something I already have
C) I must have a specific idea of where it will go ("near the front door" does NOT count)
D) Must not require undue pampering (ok, who am I kidding, I'd read my plants bedtime stories if I thought it'd make a difference).

Of course, I knew going into this that I was likely to fail miserably and give into temptation within the first 10 minutes.

BlueSunrise I'm starting off pretty good. This Geranium (which also goes by the name 'Blogold') has wonderful chartreuse foliage and blue flowers. I'd actually been looking for it all last year, so I was pretty happy to find it. From what I gather, it's more of a clumper than a rambler and gets about 2' tall and wide.

Depending on how well this one performs, I can imagine I'll acquire more, as I can never get enough blue/purple in the garden (although my partner would beg to differ). I guess I really have to admit I'm a sucker for Geraniums.
Another plant I'd been thinking of purchasing this year anyway, Euphorbia 'Dixter' gets about 3' tall and almost as wide. I can't remember where I first saw this plant, but I was instantly attracted to the sultry foliage and the warm, glowing flowers. I can just imagine all the different combinations I can try with this...imagine it next to a clump of purple Iris, or a clump of Baptisia, maybe surrounded by Agastche...

Plus, it was a selection of the late, great, Chistopher Lloyd (no, not the guy from Taxi), how can you argue with that!
IrisGeraldDarby The last plant is one I saw a few months ago on Nan Ondra's blog, Hayefield. If you've never been there before, stop now, go there and be prepared to gawk...don't worry...I'll wait. Like many people, I love Iris' blossoms, but find their foliage, well, lacking. This one solves that problem. Emerging a deep purple, it gradually greens up as the season progresses. Even so, the blooms are carried on purple-tinted stems.

'Gerald Darby' maintains is form and presence throughout the season...adding some nice foliar texture without the rattiness of other Iris.

Coincidentally, I got all 3 of the above plants at the booth for Sundquist Nursery, I can't wait to see how they fare in the garden...I just have to get my butt out there and put them in the ground!

My big splurge, however, was this trio of metal Alliums from metal artist Brett Cleveland of Red Grass Designs. I had actually found his Etsy site earlier this year and became obsessed with finding similar Allium sculptures...just cheaper. When I saw them at the show, however, I knew my resolve would crumble. I pretty much blew my budget with these puppies, but couldn't be, I realized, they are my first pieces of "garden art". It doesn't hurt that I can also use them as deadly weapons if I'm ever attacked while gardening.

Did any of you folks in the PDX area happen to make it to the show? What did you think...what were your hits and/or misses? I happened to run into Ryan Miller, a fellow Portland-area blogger, at the show...and in spite of reminding myself beforehand to wish him a happy birthday, I think the smell of bark dust clouded my, Happy (belated) Birthday, Ryan!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


cropped temp

Well, it figures that the week after I pulled back the leaves to reveal all that luscious new growth in a previous post we'd have frost. Murphy's Law, I know. Anyway, the past 2 nights the temps have dipped below freezing and we've gotten some frost. That means for the last 2 mornings, I've gone outside in my PJ's with a watering can to wet the plants before the sun hits (I call it my Little House on the Prairie moment). Does it really make a difference...I don't honestly know...but why take chances :-) Supposedly, if the leaves are still frozen when the sun hits them directly, the ice crystals expand too rapidly and will burst the cells within the leaves...eek!

Egads...what must my neighbors think of me...the crazy man running around at 6:30 in the morning watering his "garden".

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Peek-A-Boo, I See You!

Here's a little sampling of what's coming up in the garden right now. I love this time of year, it's both exciting and nerve-wracking waiting for things to come up! I go out every morning and look to see if anything new has come up, and check the progress of things that have previously emerged. Of course, even though it's not even March, I've already convinced myself that some things aren't coming back...oh, the joy of neuroses!

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
I love the little buds of the sedum, they look so plump and happy! I always look forward to the Sedum, and they are now big enough that I'll probably take some cuttings to propagate them in other places in the garden.

Daffodil, unknown name
Although I am very appreciative of their bloom time (before anything else in the garden) their awful, floppy foliage is such an eyesore for such a long time that I'm going to move these further back in the garden after they bloom this spring, where taller plants should cover them up.

Persicaria 'Red Dragon'
I always think of these are very tender, but they are one of the first plants to pop up in the spring. This is the little piece that I propagated from a broken stem last summer...gotta love free plants!

Lupine, unknown name
Depsite succumbing to some pretty spectacular powdery mildew last season, the Lupine are back and ready for round 2!

Aquilegia 'Tequila Sunrise'
I admit, it's been a long time since I grew Aquilegia, I didn't realize they put out basal foliage in the fall and hold onto it all winter. The little crown of leaves and stems are slowly expanding. Love the purple tinge of these new shoots.

Geranium 'Ann Folkard'
I didn't even realize these were growing until I pulled back the thick layer of Oak leaves from them this that toxic green/yellow coloring...and that pinkish border along the edge of the leaves is stunning.

Leucanthemum, unknown name
The basal foliage that lasted through the winter looks pretty ratty, but they are sending up new growth now. I know many people are down on the common daisy, but they are unbeatable for a sure-fire burst of pristine white in the summer border.

Geranium 'Katherine Adele'
This is the most advanced growth of any of the Geraniums so far...surprising as it's also the most well-behaved and smallest at it's mature size. I bought it solely for the zonal coloring of its gorgeous all season.

Centranthus ruber
I finally cut back the scraggly stems this weekend, and can't wait for these puppies to get going...they are outstanding plants and have an amazingly long bloom period. Their cool blue-green foliage is also lovely.

Geranium macrorrhizum
Evergreen throughout the entire winter, these are also now sending up new stems, can't wait for them to really colonize the area around the Joe Pye Weed. Their foliar texture is just wonderful, with the benefit of a wonderful (depending on who you ask) scent!

Helenium 'Mardi Gras'
Another plant that maintains a basal mound of foliage all winter...once warmer weather arrives, they will explode upward.

Agastache 'Desert Sunrise'
I've been really pleased at how well these have overwintered, I've heard they can croak if they are too wet during the winter...and well, I DO live in Portland!

Persicaria 'Lance Corporal'
This hardy little Persicaria is really putting out the how the leaves are already showing their characteristic pattern, only in miniature.

Rumex (Bloody Dock)
I wasn't sure this would even come back...I never really knew for sure if it was hardy, but it looks like they are.

Echinops bannaticus
Another plant that maintains a small amount of basal foliage (although it's a favorite of slugs) throughout the winter. I do need to put some Sluggo down here...last spring they decimated the whole clump overnight. And yes...that little gray/brown blob on the foremost leaf is a slug.

Astrantia major
The first (and hopefully not the last) of the Astrantias finally popped up...I'm checking constantly for others :-)

Amsonia hubrichtii
It looks like the Amsonia should be much larger (which granted, isn't saying much) this year! I know it's a slow grower, but I'm hopeful it will at least be VISIBLE this year...last year that part of the garden looked pretty bare, due to it only being about 10 wispy stems.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Year in the Life - Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'

If someone were to stop me on the street and ask what variety of Monarda I would choose as a favorite, I'd have to say this one, 'Raspberry Wine'. While it has many of the problems that plague other Monardas, it is so vigorous, floriferous and beautiful, it would be an easy pick for me. Beware, however, if you want a small, demure Monarda, look elsewhere, because 'Raspberry Wine' is the Godzilla of Monardas! From what I gather, it's average size is 4' x 4', but, as mine is proving this spring, will spread quite a bit more if happy. I believe they are hardy to about Zone 4, which means almost anyone can grow them.

Pictured above is the foliage emerging in late winter, early spring. The photo was taken yesterday, in fact. 'Raspberry Wine', at least in my Zone 8 garden, never completely dies back. A small amount of basal foliage, like the one above, remains all winter and with warmer, sunnier weather, starts to slowly grow larger and larger.

Above you can see the rapid rate at which it grows once the weather warms. I could almost hear the stems stretching daily. It was only when I looked at the series of photos that I realized just how fast some plants can grow! This was my first year growing it and I didn't realize how tall it could get, I'd say mine was about 5' tall...then again, it's not quite in full sun. This year, I plan on doing the "Chelsea Chop" to the front portion of the clump once it gets to the 2' mark, which will hopefully keep it's stems from getting so tall that they simply can't bear their own weight. I love tall plants, but only if they can manage to stay upright.

Here is one of the forming buds in June. 'Raspberry Wine' starts blooming in late June, but really gets going in the first part of July here in least in my garden. Unfortunately for me, right about the time these were starting to bloom, we had our first heat wave here in PDX, on 4th of July weekend. It seems that whever we get blasted by heat in our neighborhood, we also get really high, gusty winds. I came home from work one day to find half the stems of 'Raspberry Wine' had fallen over, due to the high winds. I was not pleased.

Here are the flowers in the early stages of bloom, you can see the flowers are a very, VERY bright pinkish-red. I believe one catalog describes it as "wine-red without a trace of muddiness", seems pretty on-the-mark. I honestly can't say I would have chose this plant if I had seen it in bloom at the's just such a strong color. In a mixed border, however, especially with enough cooler-colored companions, it's brassiness is mellowed a bit, yet still retains its electric nature.

While not named Bee Balm because of its attractiveness to bees (it's called Bee Balm because it was originally used as a treatment for bee stings), bees still enjoy it's blossoms. Honestly, they never seemed quite as crazy for any of my Monardas like they were for the Agastaches. Get close enough and you can smell the strong, musky scent so typical of Monarda. Although part of the mint family, I find the scent of Monarda a bit more pungent and spicy than typical mints. It's rather pleasant, but I can see that some people may find it a bit much.

Here you can see how 'Raspberry Wine' fits into the border, remember, this is actually only HALF as big as it would have been if it hadn't lost those stems earlier in the summer. Also, this is only its first year in my garden (was planted the previous fall as a tiny little start I purchased from Joy Creek Nursery). Make no mistake, this is a very vigorous plant...and you know I have a soft spot for bold, vigorous plants! Not only does it bloom heavily, but it blooms for a very long period, From July into October.

Here is the Monarda this fall, just before I cut it down. Now, I hardly ever cut plants back until late winter, just before they resume growth. 'Raspberry Wine', however, like all my Monardas, gets Powdery Mildew. I seem to be a PM every Monarda I've ever grown has gotten it, so I just learn to roll with the fungal punches, as it were. I do spray the plants regularly if PM shows up, with some organic anti-fungal stuff. It is sad to cut the plants down, however, as the seed heads are kind of cool looking.

There you have it...if you want a beautiful, robust plant that flowers its dear little heart out...go for Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'! Just make sure you keep your eye on it, as it seems bent on world domination.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Unrequited Love - Pennisetum macrourum

Pennisetum macrourum (African Feathergrass)

Last fall my partner and I went on a vacation to Montreal and Quebec City. During our stay in Montreal, I somehow managed to persuade (or maybe trick) him and his friend we were staying with to go to the Montreal Botanical Garden. The garden is worthy of its own post (which I will do someday), but especially noteworthy was one plant I noticed and immediately fell in love with...the above Pennisetum. Tall and airy, it was used in several plantings. It added not only height, but wonderful movement...and due to it's open, airy nature, didn't seem unduly bulky, nor did it obscure or overwhelm neighboring plants.

We visited in the afternoon, which of course is the best time for viewing grasses. The angled sun suffused each bloom with glowing light. I love how long and slender the flowers are, they have a casual elegance I found breathtaking. It was the start...I wanted it...I REALLY wanted it! I searched for a while after we got back to PDX, but without any luck...I found a few articles about it, but no one seemed to be carrying them for sale.

This spring, however, I met a fellow blogger, Ryan Miller, who talked about Plant World Seeds on his blog, gnomiscience. The plants he bought all sounded very interesting, not to mention out of the ordinary...a combination that would cause the ears of any serious gardener to prick up! I immediately jumped to their website, not looking for anything in particular, just browsing. I was practically drunk with delight, you know the feeling when you discover a new nursery with tons of plants that you are unfamiliar with...sensory overload!

Of course, being a grass junkie, I eventually ended up on their Grasses section. Guess what...there was the Pennisetum macrourum I'd been lusting over all winter. Happy ending...right! Not quite. I had my wallet open and was ordering when I thought "hmmmm, seems too good to be true...better check the hardiness". From what I gather, its only ardy to zone 9 :-( During my research, I also discovered its listed as an invasive species in some areas (although I'm guessing only the areas it's actually hardy in...unless its seed are much tougher.

Anyway...I'm putting this out there to my fellow bloggers (especially my fellow PNW and Zone 8 gardeners), have you any experience with this grass? Is it hardy for it a pest?