Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Web Address!

Lilium Black Beauty Patch

Just an FYI to everyone...I recently purchased a new URL for my blog, it's http://www.rhonestreetgardens.com/

EDIT: Just to be clear...because I realize now it may have been a bit confusing...I just purchased that address above...and it now points to this blog. Nothing else is changing, I'm still using blogger...and they are still hosting my content, so you shouldn't have to do anything at all to access my blog...subscribers should still get updates and you should be able to use either the new or old address and still get directed to the same place. Sorry for any confusion! -Scott

Monday, August 22, 2011

Garden Fail/Garden Win

Well, it was bound to happen...our pleasant, mild weather officially ended this weekend...and summer and I are officially broken up again. As I sat in front of my computer with the A/C blasting away I was pondering what to post about this week. I've been wanting to do a new series of posts about my gardening foibles (especially since I have practically never-ending string of them) and this seemed like a good time to start!

The above illustration from last year shows an ongoing issue I have. The front garden is located on the east side of our house, and due to some mature trees across the street, doesn't get light until about noon. The garden gets about 4-5 hours of sun, after which the house (and trees behind it) shade it for the rest of the day. I've struggled to find plants that will thrive in these conditions...shade plants fry in the hot sun and far too many sun plants grow tall and flop over. The black wedge above shows the most extreme situation...the peak of our roof actually creates a weird spot that only gets full sun for 1-2 hours a day...but during the hottest part of the day. Today I'm going to talk about the first plants I tried there...some poor Echinacea (white circle).

This photo shows just how tall and spindly the Echinacea were...they got almost 5' tall, with the thinnest (and weakest) stems...almost no leaves...you can see right through the plants, they are so sparse! Can you believe there are 3 plants in there somewhere!

Here is the view from up on our porch...at least now you can see the plants better. Anyway, the Echinacea were not happy here, they did bloom, but of course they flopped all over and were pretty sad looking. I decided last fall, a few weeks before the first frost, to move them. I knew it wasn't the best time and that they wouldn't have much chance to put down new roots...but figured at least they'd have a better chance...I wasn't sure they'd make it through another winter in their current location.

echinacea new locatin wide  449
So I moved them, to the north side of our house, a spot which gets no sun at all during the winter, but is actually one of the sunniest during summer...crazy, huh! Anyway, I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained...they HAD to be happier here...if they survived. This spring, I was thrilled to see them return and they have been MUCH more successful here. They are fuller and much more floriferous.

echinacea new closeup  450
Truth be told, they are still a bit on the floppy side, because even though for my garden, it's about as full sun as I can get, it's a far cry from truly being "full sun" conditions. I'm hoping they bulk up and are a bit sturdier next year, but either way, they are much improved over last year...so I declare it a win! Next time, I'll look at what I chose to replace the Echinacea in their old spot.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - August 15, 2011

GBBD_August 2011
August is here...that's crazy! Here in Portland, we've been lucky to have an amazingly mild summer so far...it might be the first time I can say I've enjoyed summer weather! The garden is looking better and better as the weeks go by. Of course, now that most of the plants are at or near their full size, it's easier for me to judge what is and isn't working...so a few things will get moved in the following weeks (as long as the weather stays pleasant). I know there are A LOT of GBBD posts for everyone to get though, so I decided to only feature a few individual flowers and post wider shots of the garden this time...and off we go!

Agastache and Monarda
Agastache 'Blue Fortune' and Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'
I've been thrilled this summer that my 'Raspberry Wine' has escaped from getting Powdery Mildew (the same can't be said of the smaller 'Blue Stocking'. 'Raspberry Wine' has been blooming for over a month and will likely continue until frost (if it blooms as long as last year). I'm smitten with it's vigor and floriferous nature. In the past, the biggest problem I've had with it (aside form PM) is that its bottom stems get pretty bare during hotter weather. This year, it's been cooler and I planted a few Agastache 'Blue Fortune' in front of it to hide it's knobby knees. Love the contrasting color and shapes of the blooms.

Astrantia major, unknown variety
Some of the Astrantias are setting seed, but this one and 'Star of Beauty' decided to flower for a 2nd time this season. I thought about deadheading the others, but am interested to see if any of them set seed.

Knautia macedonica, Verbena bonariensis 'Lollipop', Agastache 'Ava'
The backyard is now officially a jungle! I'll have to do a more in-depth post soon. All of the plants are highly attractive to pollinators. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds...all of them jostle and fight for a spot at their favorite flowers.

Agastache Blue Blazes Agastache ava
Agastache 'Blue Blazes'Agastache 'Ava'
Two new Agastaches from High Country Gardens I'm trying for the first time this year. 'Ava' has been around for a few years on the market. I'm amazed at how full and bushy it is for a first year plant. 'Blue Blazes' is HCG's new Agastache introduction this year, so I wasn't sure what to expect. It has impressed me beyond all expectations. While a few of the plants are smaller and more compact, some of them have shot up to 6' tall and about 3-4' wide and are absolutely festooned with their gorgeous blossoms. The plants are a bit open and lanky, which I think will change next year as these were straggly sprouts when I planted them. HCG also recommends pinching this one back in spring to encourage it to stay bushier...which seems a good idea. Can't wait to see how these perform next year!

Front Garden
This is the front (East) border. The Rudbeckia certainly draws the eye, but is tempered by the blue and magenta of the neighboring Geraniums ('Rozanne' and 'Ann Folkard'). The 'Tiger Eyes' Sumac is finally coming into its own this summer and growing...it looks smashing...such a vivid spot of color and texture. I am crossing my fingers that it gets enough sun to give a good show of fall color as well.

Persicaria and Eupatorium Echinops bannaticus
Persicaria polymorphaEchinops bannaticus
I've been wanting a Persicaria polymorpha since last year when I really started getting into Persicarias. Sadly, no one was selling them. This spring, however, I found one at Portland Nursery and grabbed it! I'm pretty sure it will have to move next year, having seen just how big they can get. The plants in the background are Eutrochium 'Little Joe' and Foeniculum vulgare. The Echinops is a plant I always wanted to have in my garden someday, back when I lived in an apartment. I love it's little spherical flowers...they seem utterly perfect...almost unnatural. They are such a great contrast to all the other forms in the garden.

front crop  443
Here's the front border looking from the other direction (and on a sunny day, no less). I love how the repeated Agastache draw the eye through the garden...can you tell I have a bit of an obsession with plants that bloom in spikes and spires?!?

lilium black beauty 1 salvia and helenium
Lilium 'Black Beauty'Salvia 'Black & Blue' & Helenium 'Mardi Gras'
Lilium 'Black Beauty' begins blooming, for me at least, around the last week of July and continues until about the first week of September. I am totally in love with them, there is just something so elegant and dramatic about those richly-colored, recurved petals. Salvia 'Black & Blue' is one of those plants I get very frustrated with early in the season, as it takes forever to emerge and start growing...leaving a very large empty spot in the garden. Then, it blooms, and all is forgiven (at least until next spring). The color and stature of them is just so lovely...nothing comes close.

Helenium 'Mardi Gras'
This is the orange/yellow blob in the background of the above pic. I love Helenium and keep thinking I'll get more someday (they come is such a rich array of autumnal colors). This one is definitely a keeper. It has been blooming for over a month already, and if I keep it deadheaded, will go until frost. Plus, how many other plants are tough enough to survive (even thrive) wedged between a Miscanthus and a Eutrochium...not many.

Here is a pic of the North border from the West. I've been very happy with how this border (which is only a year old) has shaped up this year. It's one of the few times I've felt very little need to fuss around or move things...well, not TOO much, anyway ;-)

Joe Pye
Eutrochium 'Gateway'
Ah yes, what would my garden be like without Joe Pye Weed...very sad, indeed! This is actually a pic of the smaller of my 2 'Gateway', the larger one is by our front steps. This one is on the North Side of the house and is sizing up nicely. Love those large heads of mauve flowers...and so do the bees. Joe Pye provides good structure and mass to my garden...and is lovely in and out of flower. As a bonus, the stems are a wonderful red/burgundy color as well.

crocosmia  440
Crocosmia 'Orangeade'
My only Crocosmia, 'Orangeade' is a good performer and has clumped up handsomely. It provides a nice shot of warm color to my predominantly cool palette of plants.

Agastache and Persicaria echinacea magnus
Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' & Persicaria 'Taurus'Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'
Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' is such a great plant and I use it around my gardens, including paired here with Persicaria 'Taurus' and Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem). I love that both flower with spikes, but they are very different in size, shape and color. Echinacea are, for me, the signature flower of summer...I can't imagine a garden of mine without them.

Monet Moment
The North border form the East...love the play of color, form and texture.

Sunny Garden 2
And here is the whole shebang...hope you're having a great summer so far...for more blooms, head on over to May Dreams Gardens for more Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts!

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Polarized Garden

header copy

It's no secret that I like taking photos...although I was late to the game and didn't get my own real camera until a few years ago. Since then, I seldom leave the house without my camera...you just never know when something interesting will catch your eye. One question I get asked on occasion is what it takes to get good garden photos. Well, aside from the obvious, (shoot on overcast days, or during the famed "Golden Hour") my best piece of advice is to invest in a polarizing filter.

Circular Polarizer
From Wikipedia:
A polarizing filter, used both in color and black-and-white photography, filters out light polarized perpendicularly to the axis of the filter. This has three applications in photography: it reduces reflections from some surfaces, it can darken the sky and it saturates the image more by eliminating unwanted reflections.

The short and simple of it, it reduces glare from reflected light, the benefit of which is more saturated colors and "cleaner" images. A polarizer is really useful for almost all outdoor photography...it darkens skies (how many times have you taken a photo with a totally blown-out white sky). Although for gardening shots, it's main benefit is to cut down on glare on leaves/flowers, it can also reduce the effect of atmospheric haze in wider, landscape-type shots.

LiliumPolarized copy
Here is an example of glare that would normally show up in a photo...you can see the polarized version has elimiated the white glare on the side of the petals facing toward the light source.

Another example, this time on Miscanthus. This is more dramatic than many examples, as the leaves of the grass are slightly more reflective anyway, and compounded with glare, get totally blown-out. With the polarizer, however, most of the glare is reduced enough to be able to actually see the grass, not just the glare!

Another case where you can get extreme results is with water. These are some shots I took at the Portland Japanese Garden last year. The shot on the left shows the effect of the Polarizer, actually counteracting the glare on the pond, allowing you to see the fish underneath its surface! Notice on the un-polarized photo on the right shows how much the reflected light blocks your view of what's below the waters surface. Also, notice the fog/haze in the background...which is almost non-existant in the polarized version. You'll notice that one shot is vertical and one is horizontal...this demonstrates the difference in rotation of the filter. I rotated my camera after taking the horizontal shot and didn't rotate the filter accordingly, so that 90° rotation totally reversed the polarization.

Garden - Polarizer

Garden - No Polarizer

Here are two wider shots, showing both effects of the polarizer, both the reduction in visible glare (hot spots) and the saturation of colors that comes from minimizing the scattering effect of the glare.

The filter screws onto the front of your lens and you use it by turning it until you get the desired effect. Depending on the angle you are in relation to the sun, it could have a dramatic effect, or no effect at all...it takes a bit of getting used to the quirks, and it IS possible to go too far, but it's worth it for most shots to give it a try.

So, if you have a camera that accepts a polarizing filter, I say go for it! You can find them pretty cheap on Amazon (just make sure you get the right one for you size lens...usually you can see the size in Millimeters on the edge of the lens). They are useful more often than not, especially if shooting in wet conditions or if you are forced to shoot in full sun.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


The north border on the first day of August, 2011.

Ahhh...this photo really sums up what I love about the summer garden (can you hear Ella singing from here?) Lots of color, texture and variety. I love taking photos of this part of the garden at this time of year, as it gets hit by both morning and evening light.

In spite of a few issues I need to figure out soon, I've really been trying to just enjoy the garden for what it is this year. For some reason, this border, in particular, has come together better than I expected.

Here in Portland, we've had a pretty mild, pleasant summer so far. We've certainly been spared the horrendous heat so much of the country is suffering through...and I'm VERY grateful. Mornings like this make me so happy to live in the PNW.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Garden Profile - Bellevue Botanical Garden


A few weeks ago we decided to take a weekend off from everything and head up to Seattle...mostly to visit the Battlestar Galactica exhibit at the SciFi Museum (yes, we're nerds). Of course, I couldn't commit to an entire weekend without ANY sort of garden activity...so we also decided to visit the Bellevue Botanical Garden (which, I'm ashamed to admit, I'd never heard of) as well.

Grassy patch
The first thing that greets you as you enter the garden is this great patch of grasses. Even though the bright sun made taking photos a nightmare for the most part...it did make for some awesome backlighting effects on these grasses.

grassy patch 3
Another shot of the grasses, with the wonderful red-tinted Imperata in front, the soft purple cloud of Nepeta behind that, and all around the feathery plumes of stipa tenuissima.

grasy patch 5
More grasses...sorry, I love them!

Circle border
I found this circular path very pleasing...love the mixes of grasses and perennials. The Oat Grass is especially lovely right now. I love the pairing of the blue grass with the wonderful chartreuse blooms of the Alchemilla...which makes me question why I don't have any.

oat grass and allium Crocosmia v
Blue Oat GrassCrocosmia 'Lucifer'

Warm Colors 1
This is a picture of the same border from another angle. I love the warm colors and how they play off each other. I'm generally not a fan of red Crocosmia...it tends to be a bit too strident for my liking...but with the dark foliage of the barberry behind it, I find it quite fetching.

Astrantia and spirea
I loved this pairing of the somber, bruise-colored Astrantia and the brighter yellow of the Spirea ('Ogon', perhaps?).

astrantia bokeh
even though most of the Astrantia are done blooming, the bracts remain and continue to look good...just in a subtler, more earthy palette.

border 1
This is the top of the large perennial border...the border cascades down a gentle slope in several tiers.

path with salvia
The paths in the Perennial border run parallel along the slope, dividing it into 3 or 4 tiers, I love so many of the plants they have planted here...it has a very English Border feel...with lots of complimentary tones of pink, purple and blue.

echinacea v allium stars
Echinacea hybridAllium seedhead

vernoica and achillea
I love the soft colors of these borders...so calming, so restful...and the color echos are lovely

lovely lavendar
Seeing lavender in bloom always makes me want to run out and get some...then I'll see an old plant all woody and distorted...and my wallet pops right back in my pocket ;-)

astilbe and veronica
I loved how they incorporated Astilbe into the border, they create such a nice gauzy effect...like cotton candy.

Allium seedheads
The spent blooms of Allium are almost as lovely as the blooms themselves...and I love the muted mauve color.

The color of these Eryngiums was electric...the bees and I were competing for the best view Sadly, the plants seemed a bit straggly...must find something to camouflage those knobby knees!

eryngium with bee
Another shot of those gorgeous Eryngium blossoms.

achillea and salvia 3
I really liked this combination of Salvia and Achillea...a nice study in complimentary color and form.

Agastache backlit
There were a few lovely Agastaches in the garden...love the multi-hued blooms on this one.

Now THIS is a color pairing I can love without reservations...Nepeta, Lavender and Agastache...colorful and drought-tolerant!

allium seedheads 2
More Allium seedheads, I just love the structural quality of their blooms.

Crocosmia h
Another shot of the Crocosmia, accented by a wash of warm Helenium in the background.

agastache and lavender
More of the Agastache/Lavender grouping, with Kniphofia in the background.

physocarpus and kniphofia
While I'm not a fan of Kniphofia, I did appreciate this pairing with Physocarpus.

Monarda jacob cline and barberry
Again, not usually a fan of bright red...but I think this photo illustrates the trick to using it well...a dark background...it really seems to alleviate the overbearing redness of these Monarda. At the same time, the red seems deeper and richer against the dark background. The difference between the red on green and red on purple/burgundy is striking. One is like a laser beam to the brain...the other like a glowing ember.

While the bright yellow Achilleas you see most often can be a bit bright, I was really digging these Achilleas...they had just a hint of orange...which really softens them and makes them feel earthy.

Stipa gigantea wide
I totally love this grass (Stipa gigantea)...mine is WAY smaller than this...definitely has a way to go before it's very "gigantea"! Here's to hoping it is just putting down lots of roots and will look this amazing next year! Love the fountain-like stems of flowers...so arresting when backlit.

Stipa Gigantea
Closeup of the Stipa blossoms.

phlomis seedheads
Phlomis russeliana is another plant that I almost think looks better post-blooming...when the form of the seedheads is really noticeable.

path with kniphofia
Another path cutting through the hillside.

stachys and helianthemum maybe
I love this combo of purple/orange...I could be wrong, but I believe these are Stachys and Helianthemum.

Border with Echinacea
A wider view of that section of the garden.

Gaillardia and stachys
Another nice contrasting purple pairing...again the Stachys, but paired with Gaillardia this time.

Geranium Blue Sunrise maybe
I was surprised to see Geranium 'Blue Sunrise' in the garden...mine is still pretty scrawny...someday it'll look this good.

Path with Panicum
Another path lined with some grasses (looks like Panicum). One thing I would have liked to see more of was grasses, there weren't very many in this part of the garden.

NewZealandBurr and Gaillardia
My favorite new short groundcover, New Zealand Burr (Acaena inermis 'Purpurea') with Gaillardia coming up through it. Love, love, love the color of this groundcover.

I believe this is a Mimosa...love the delicate structure of the unfurling leaves.

Hakonechoal vertical Allium
Hakonechloa Allium

Eryngium giganteum
I really do love the blooms of this Eryngium...there's just something about it...or maybe it's the story of Miss Wilmott that I like...either way, great plant!

Garden Path with Monarda
Another path winding past the Monardas and Yuccas before disappearing behind a cloud of Leucanthemum.

Foreground Salvia
Even after the blooms of Salvia have faded, the spires add valuable color and structure to the garden.

Seat in teh Garden
A frothy, dreamy, backlit view of the dry garden.

Verbascum Agastache and Stipa
Again, backlighting for the win! Stems of Verbascum rise out of the Stipa, backed by colorful swathes of Agastache.

Waterfall with Rodgersia
Oh...and there's a foresty/shady section of the garden too...but that probably deserves it's own post, as this one is already far too long!

Overall, I thought this Botanical Garden was pretty good...especially since I'd never heard of it before. There did seem to be large areas in a few borders, however, that were empty...perhaps they were in the midst of some re-planting? They also seemed to be using a really limited selection of plants (especially in the perennial garden). One thing that struck me on their sun-baked slopes was the paucity of Echinacea and/or Rudbeckia (except for the few hybrid Echinacea I showed above...hardly a good representation of the genus).

Also, as I mentioned previously, with that much sunny space, I would have loved to have seen more Ornamental Grasses. They had several beds that illustrated wise water usage...for which plantings of American prairie grasses would have been idea (never mind that they would also look spectacular!) Can you imagine a huge planting of Andropogon, Schizachyrium, Panicum and Sorghastrum...interplanted with their native partners...Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Vernonia, Eupatorium and Liatris (to name but a few). Then again, I'm sure I missed some parts of the garden...and like most public gardens, I'm sure they are constantly changing.

Still...and this is something I've always been puzzled by, why doesn't Portland have a botanical garden?