Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Thanks to all of you out there! Thanks to my fellow bloggers who continually post such awesome content. Of course, thanks to all you who follow and read my blog...for putting up with all my ranting, gushing and generally random musings about life and gardening ;-) I'm so happy to be part of the garden blogging community...with it's amazing wealth of funny, interesting, thoughtful and knowledgeable individuals. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Pollen collecting in rainwater
Just a one-off post today of something unusual I noticed a few days ago.At first, I thought it was some strange fluid leaking from parked cars (antifreeze, brake fluid...who knows). I soon realized, however, that one of the neighbor's trees (some sort of evergreen) is producing huge amounts of acid-yellow pollen right now, forming strange psychedelic ribbons of color in the ever-present pools of rainwater. Bizarre!
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I never seem to be able to muster up the strength to do these two posts back-to-back...but this month I was determined to make it happen! Pam Penick at Digging hosts the monthly Foliage Follow-Up at her site...and it's always a great way to recognize the importance of foliage after our monthly glut of blooming awesomeness the day before ;-) Of course, it helps that the fall foliage is at it's peak right about now...making it impossible to ignore. It helps that Autumn in Portland is generously long...lasting months...not the brief 2 (or fewer) weeks that I got in the Midwest when growing up!
Front (East) border on a foggy morning
We've had some really nice foggy mornings the past few weeks, which always makes things look even more beautiful. Love the misty, mysterious effect the fog imparts to the scene.
Parrotia persica (Persian Ironwood)
Well, I can hardly do a fall foliage post without mentioning trees. We only have 2 trees on our small property. Two years ago we planted a pair of Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) trees with the Friends of Trees program. It's a pretty great organization whose goal is help people plant and care for trees in the Portland area. I have to admit, I'm not super knowledgable about trees, in general. When picking out trees from the lists they provide (based on the size and conditions of the area you are planting in), my only real criteria was that they have nice fall color and decent form. I decided on the Ironwoods because they filled both these requirements, adding interesting exfoliating bark and Witch Hazel-like early spring flowers. I have to say, I've been very pleased with them...they are handsome and have beautiful fall color...mostly gold with hints of orange and red. Our neighbors down the street planted the same trees at the same time as we did our. I've noticed their trees colored up several weeks earlier than ours did, and have much more red/orange in them. I think it's probably due to them not watering quite as frequently...which apparently produced more vivid fall colors...good to know for next year!
Oak trees across street
One of the reasons we picked this house in this neighborhood is because of the gorgeous old Oak trees that line the street we live on. I just love them to pieces...even if they shade the garden quite a bit. Of course, they also shade the house in summer, which makes me a happy camper. These Oaks are really variable in regards to fall color...some years the leaves just brown and fall, but this year they are turning a glorious range of gold and reds...so pretty!
Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem)
Can't do a foliage post without grasses, the stars of my autumn garden! I know I just did a huge post on them, however, so I'll keep comments to a minimum ;-) I can never get enough of the wonderful color range of Little Bluestem...plant them, people!
Panicum 'Blood Brothers'
Can never get over the wonderful colors of the Panicums, especially this one. It's nice, too, that they are so upright and don't flop over in the rain.
I'm pleased with how the Amsonias I planted last spring have bulked up, and look forward to them getting better each year. I must say, this part of the garden is a bit sparse-looking right now as I wait for them to fill in...but these glimpses of their fall glory really makes me excited for what's to come! If you've ever seen a mature plant, you'll know what I mean!
|Lilium 'Black Beauty'||Eutrochium 'Little Joe'|
Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'
I know it's considered bad to admit that I planted something just for it's flowers, but I have to plead guilty when it comes to Echinacea purpurea. However, come autumn, I'm vindicated when I remember that the wonderful yellowing foliage and dark, spiky seed heads are just as rad. I love how the leaves twist and curl...very Tim Burton-esque!
Geranium 'Ann Folkard'
Again, this plant delivers on every level...gotta love the foliage during the entire growing season...and now, as it turns deep red and purple...love it even more.
|Geranium 'Rozanne'||Sedum 'Matrona'|
Another, gratuitous shot of 'Rozanne'
I bought this Geranium in spring, based purely on the promise of fall color. I'm pleased to say that it's actually quite lovely all year long. The foliage has nice dark markings and cute little violet flowers all summer and into fall. The autumn coloring is rich red-orange and looks spectacular climbing up through other plants.
Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'
While this plant really sulked during summer, I cut it back to the ground and it resprouted a few weeks ago and now looks fresh and lovely. Can't wait to see how it fares next year...I'm loving the dark, divided foliage.
Parthenocissus henryii (Silver-Vein Virginia Creeper)
I planted this vine purely for the fall coloring. It's definitely handsome during the rest of the year, but this is what I've been waiting for!
|Panicum 'Shenandoah'||Eutrochium 'Gateway'|
Closetup of Eutrochium 'Gateway'
This close-up of 'Gateway' shows off the wonderful wine-red stems...really a great contrast with the yellowing foliage. Although the stems are noticeable all during the growing season, they really stand out now.
I don't remember the Persicarias turning such vibrant colors last year...perhaps I just wasn't paying attention. Regardless, this year they are stunning...turning the most wonderful shades of scarlet and crimson...all this while continuing to bloom like it's still July!
Persicaria 'Lance Corporal'
This Persicaria might just be the perfect plant (aside from it's VERY generous re-seeding)! The foliage is gorgeous from the moment it emerges in spring...the richest, brightest green you can imagine, highlighted with maroon chevrons. In the fall, it turns a warm, vibrant yellow. Another bonus, unlike most Persicarias, which crumple into a heap at the first frost, the skeletal branching structure of 'Lance Corporal' remains standing sentinel all winter.
|Pennisetum 'Hameln' with Euphorbia 'Blue Jeans'||Miscanthus 'Malepartus'|
Side (North) border, featuring mainly grasses now
The garden relies heavily on the grasses at this time of year...and as they mature with each passing season, the garden feels more and more "together".
Front (East) border on a foggy morning
Again, the front garden during a beautiful, foggy November morning.
Happy Autumn, everyone! I hope you all take a moment and just ENJOY this amazing season :-) Oh...and dont' forget to head over to Digging for even more fabulous foliage-focused posts! Do I get bonus points for alliteration?!?
Monday, November 14, 2011
November...can it really be! We've been really lucky here in Portland and have had a very pleasant autumn. I keep thinking it should have frosted by now (can never remember when our typical first frost is), but it means that every day from now until then is just that much more precious. The cool weather has re-invigorated me and I'm out quite a bit, taking photos, tidying up and generally just enjoying the garden. I find that during most of the year, if I think about November in the garden, I think of it as dormant...but that's definitely not the case. While it's not the powerhouse that it is in summer, the garden is still holding its own. Of course, most of the focus at this time of year is on form, foliage and seed heads. Looking closer, however, I realized there were still quite a few plants blooming...some just as heavily as any other time of the year!
I love the Echinacea as they steadily inch their way to winter...this may be the last of the blooms. It may be small, but it's just as vibrant as the first blooms of June!
Verbena rigida and Muhlenbergia capillaris
You can hardly beat this Verbena for durability...sometimes they even blooms after the first freeze. I love the soft pink of the Verbena paired with the wonderful mauvy-pink of the Muhly Grass and the muted pink buttons of Aster 'Prince' in the background.
Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
I can never decide at which point I should stop calling these blooms and start calling them seed heads. I suppose at this point, it's fair to include them in both...and in either case, they are lovely. I especially love them when the foliage turns this wonderful, buttery yellow.
How is it possible that every single Persicaria is still blooming. Not just that, it always seems like the cooler weather of autumn triggers a second growth spurt. Without exception, they have all grown more over the past month or two, and are blooming with increased vigor.
Persicaria 'Golden Arrow' & Panicum 'Shenandoah'
The newly-planted 'Golden Arrow' seems very happy in its spot. While most fall-planted things seem to sit in suspended animation, Persicarias grow like it's spring. Love, love, love the ruby-red wands of blooms paired with the wonderful yellowing foliage of the neighboring Panicum 'Shenadoah'.
Agastache 'Blue Blazes'
Some of the Agastaches that I cut back (due to their heavy stems getting snapped by heavy rains), have re-sprouted from lateral shots are are blooming again! The blooms at this time of year aren't the tall spikes...rather, they are cute little buttons.
Agastache 'Purple Haze'
This Agastache proved to be a real workhorse. I think I may try to take cuttings next spring and propogate more...it really makes an impact with it's rigidly upright form and smoky purple blooms.
|Salvia 'Black & Blue'||Dicentra scandens|
Salvia 'Purple majesty'
While it doesn't look particularly majestic right now, 'Purple Majesty' keeps blooming. I've found that this particular Salvia doesn't always overwinter for me...so we'll see if it returns next year.
Another plant new to my garden this year, Knautia macedonica has proven itself worthy of a spot in my garden. It bloomed for the entire summer and is still going (lightly...but still). I've come to love it's rich, red blooms and the charming little spherical seedheads.
This wonderful Aster has been really spectacular this year, it's finally come into it's own. About 2' x 2', it's a smaller Aster, but very easy to tuck into an existing border. I really want to plant a few more next year in this part of the garden...as long as the new shed doesn't block too much sun for this area...cross your fingers.
It looks a bit seedy, but I couldn't help but post this picture...which I may actually like more because of the awesome ball-shaped seed heads of the Anemone 'Honorine Jobert'
Geranium 'Ann Folkard' and Persicaria 'Golden Arrow'
'Ann Folkard' Geranium is another garden superstar that is re-invigorated by the cooler weather of fall. I love how it keeps pushing out new foliage, and it's interesting to see just how much the foliage changes during the year, as the older foliage is mostly green. Those vibrant purple blooms with their contrasting black eye never fail to please...especially paired with the contrasting pinkish-red spikes of the nearby Persicaria.
And lastly, it would hardly be a bloom day without the bloomingest plant in my garden, Geranium 'Rozanne'. I can't believe this plant is able to put on such a show. Even if it isn't blanketed with blooms at this time of year, they are so beautiful that even a few can make all the difference. I especially love it right now, as the blue blooms contrast so wonderfully with the foliage as it takes on warm autumn tints.
Is your garden still going...if so, what's blooming!?! For more blooms all over the world, head over to the official Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post at May Dreams Garden!
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Well, the answer, of course, is YES, of course we're crazy! Ever since we moved in a 3 or so years ago, we've lamented our lack of outdoor storage. This means tools, soil and mulch are strewn haphazardly around the house...and the wheelbarrow is stranded in our driveway...the perpetual eyesore. We've been considering putting up some sort of shed for the past few years, but realized quickly we'd have to custom-build it ourselves. The space it has to fit on is so small that we couldn't find anything that would fit (and hold more than a few tools).
House before we moved in.
Here you can see the house just prior to us moving in...and there was a small garage at the end of the driveway. We had it torn down, however, because it was actually too small for our car (and probably any car larger than a VW Beetle). Also, for a garage that was too small for a car, it was way too big for our lot...taking up almost the entirety of the teeny, tiny backyard. It was also completely unstable...actually leaning against the neighbors shed. So, the garage came down...and we were thrilled at how much more space we had in the backyard (going from postage stamp to postcard! Yet...we soon realized we needed some sort of outdoor storage...
...Enter the shed! Norm (my partner) actually has been in charge of this particular project (I'm no builder). I've been kinda just letting him figure it out...only offering my advice on material (corrugated metal) and size (short enough to not block sun to the south planting bed). Of course, when he mentioned that maybe we could do a green roof, I was INSTANTLY on board. NOW the fun planning begins!
Anyway, we've just started the framing and should be starting on the roof in the next few weeks...in a perfect world, we could have it done by Thanksgiving. I'll be happy (surprised) if we have it done by the 4th of July ;-)
Monday, November 7, 2011
Panicum 'Blood Brothers'
Wow, it's been a while since I posted anything...sorry! As I mentioned before, I caught a cold a few weeks ago that kinda sapped me. In addition, the past few weeks have been insane at work, leaving me a frail husk of a man in my off-hours! I finally caught up on sleep this weekend, however (thanks', partially, to "falling back"), and managed to get myself together enough for a real post! Hurrah! I've been meaning to do a post focusing on various grasses all summer, but never seemed to be organized enough...but here it is!
Grasses and sympathetic perennials
I think when I first got interested in grasses, I was really most drawn to ones that weren't particularly hardy for me (back when I lived in Nebraska). I really, really wanted to grow Misanthus...but they really, really didn't want to grow on the farm for me! Over the past few years, however, I've become more and more enamoured of our native grasses. During my recent trip back home to Nebraska, I was practically overwhelmed at being surrounded by all the amazing grasses that I had, of course, lived with most of my life. I guess it's a case of taking the things you see every day for granted.
Now I find that the grasses I love the most of the ones that were the main components of the tallgrass prairies I grew up surrounded by. Panicum, Schizachyrium, Sorghastrum and Andropogon. Of course, variety is the spice of life, and I wouldn't be without the non-natives either...but I've found renewed interest in these four groups...and the activity of breeders in the past few years have given us some amazing new garden-worthy cultivars.
I can't express how much I love this little Panicum. In more sun, it would have been a column of rich red by now, but in my part-sun garden, it's coloring is quite a bit more modest. Nevertheless, it still maintains its form (very upright...no flopping) and manages to color up nicely (if subtly). Even if it isn't quite as vibrant as it should be, it provides wonderful structure and movement to the garden. This was its first full year in my garden, and I plan on reducing the water it gets next year by at least half (by fitting the drip hose with a lower output emitter). Eventually, this portion of the garden (with a few exceptions) should only need to be watered very infrequently.
In mid-summer, this Panicum starts to throw out its tiny little metallic pink flower. While not as flashy as some grasses, they are produced in such a quantity, that there almost seems to be a pinkish haze hovering over them. I love how they move in the wind, and they provide a nice textural contrast to their more solid neighbors.
Panicum 'Blood Brothers'
A new Panincum introduction that caught my eye earlier this year. Introduced out of Canada, this might be the single most beautiful red-colored Panicum I've ever seen (in person). I spotted a trio of them at Portland Nursery this summer. Although I had no idea where I would put it, I bought one on-the-spot. I got it home and kept looking for a place to put it...all the while, thinking about the other two I'd left behind. Not one to let something go easily, I went back the next weekend...and they were still there! I snatched them up without hesitation...still, with no idea where I'd put them! I finally moved a few things around a few weeks later and they are now situated right next to our front walk. I can't begin to describe how beautiful the coloring is on these. Their leaves have the same powdery-blue cast as 'Heavy Metal', but is brushed over with deep red highlights. The effect, when viewed straight on, is blue with purple highlights. When backlit, however, they are a veritably feast fo the eyes...more like stained glass than grass! I can't wait for these to bulk up and really make an impact.
|Panicum 'Northwind'||Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Red Head'|
Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Red Head'
The blooms of 'Red Head' and a wonderful reddish-purple upon first opening, darkening to near-black at the base. As they age, they bleach to a soft beigy-tan. The benefit of this over the very similar 'Moudry' (of which I already had several) is that it blooms so much earlier, adding, literally, months of bloom time.
Pennisetum orientale 'Tall Tails'
This is unlike any of my other Pennisetums, mostly due to it's impressive size! It somehow manages to get 6+ feet tall every year. Starting in mid-summer, it starts flowering...with enormous, foot-loot pink tapers. Unfortunately, it seems unhappy in its current location. I think it needs both more sun and space. I'll be moving it next spring into the North parking strip, which will hopefully provide both.
Pennisetum orientale 'Karley Rose'
'Karley Rose' was actually my first Pennisetum. I saw it in bloom at a flower show and fell in love with those pink-tinted blooms. This is actually one of the very first grasses to bloom in my garden, starting as early as June. I absolutely adore the effect it has on the garden...unfortunately it flops badly for me (hmmmm....seems the Orientale-type Pennisetums have more tendancy towards flopping). I know it doesn't get as much sun as it wants...but I love it where it is, so am resigned (at least for the time being) to staking it up.
Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln'
I'd say if there was a standard Pennisetum, this is it. Although some may view it with disdain (being a key component of so many mall parking lot plantings), I love it. It provides invaluable structure and texture for such a long time in the garden. Even before blooming, the mounded form is great...and the blooms (which emerge in mid to late summer) are the icing on the cake. I love the way they catch the light...and again, are such a tactile element in the garden. Beginning in early fall, the leaves start to turn bright yellow...giving the whole plant a wonderful two-tone, glowing effect...like the entire plant is shot-through with gold fibers!
Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem) 'The Blues'
If there is one grass that I could somehow magically plant in everyone's garden...it would be Little Bluestem. Native to a huge portion of the continent, it's pretty much amenable to any condition you throw at it...with one condition...full sun. Sadly, as is the case too often in my garden, it doesn't get enough sun and proceeds to flop over like a sloppy drunk in September. I'm planning on moving it to my north parking strip next year, which should give it not only full sun (or the closest I'll ever get in this location), but also better drainage. I've seen them planted in full sun with probably no irrigation and they look AMAZING for it. The foliage emerges the most delicious powder-blue and forms a mostly-upright, arching clump for most of the summer. Come late summer, however, it stretches almost straight up with it's flower stalks. Right around this time (depending on weather) it also starts to color up. This is where it gets interesting...the colors are the most indescribably beautiful mix of pink, purple, orange, red, yellow and blue...it's crazy-beautiful! The color continues to intensify right up until frost. To see one of these grasses in the right sight, lit by the angled autumn sun is truly wonderful. I plan on adding more next year...of a different variety. I've been researching and apparently there is a newer variety called 'Blue Heaven' which has all the strengths of 'The Blues' without it's weaknesses (tendency to flop). In addition, 'Blue Heave' is supposed to get 4' tall! Sign me up!
While I've always been intrigued by the taller varieties of Molinia ('Skyracer' and 'Transparent'), I'd never really given much thought to the smaller varieties until my recent trip to Wind Dancer Garden this fall. I was captivated at the nursery, however, by their amazing color and form. They are practically transparent...but provide a subtle scrim of color through which to see other plants...just love them!
Miscanthus 'Malepartus' blooms when dry
This is the very first plant (along with the neighboring Eutrochium 'Gateway') that I planted in my garden here on Rhone Street! I've always loved Miscanthus, but, let's face it, there are probably WAY TOO MANY on the market! I remember going to the nursery and being overwhelmed by the variety of Miscanthus cultivars...and really, without seeing them full-grown, how can you really make a good decision! Anyway, I lucked out by picking this variety that I'd never heard of. 'Malepartus' is a large Miscanthus...not for the faint of heart. The leaves are wider than many popular cultivars...looking to my Nebraska-raised eyes like a very open, fine-leaved clump of corn! Thats not to say it isn't lovely...because it is!
Miscanthus 'Malepartus' blooms after rain
'Malepartus' emerges earlier than almost any other plant in my garden and quickly grows to form a beautiful fountain-shaped clump. The movement and texture of this grass are truly breathtaking. The blooms emerge a rich ruby-red...which always surprises me...they compliment the nearby Eutrochium perfectly...and case of lucky positioning, if ever there was one!. Sadly, it's a bit of a flopper for me...so I'm forced to corset the poor thing right around the time it blooms.
'Malepartus' also has the added virtue of amazing autumn coloring. It's just now starting to really attain it's wonderful golden hue.
|miscanthus purpurascens||Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster'|
Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster'
'Karl Foerster' is another grass that probably suffers a bit from overexposure...being used to widely in commercial landscapes. It does seem that when landscapers want "an ornamental grass", it's going to be good-ol' 'Karl' about 90% of the time. However, this is another case where common does not equal bad. 'Karl' deserves our admiration...in every respect. Being a cool-season grass, it's up and growing before most others...even before many perennials. This is a great benefit to the garden, since they don't leave a big hole in the garden while they get going. Also, they bloom as early as June, far earlier than most grasses. The tall, narrow spikes last all summer, fall and winter...looking great right until you cut them down in late winter/early spring (as new growth is starting).
While I love how narrowly upright the blooms of Calamagrostis are...I also like how they arch outward when drenched with rain. Luckily, as soon as they dry out, they spring right back up again!
Something of an anomaly in my garden is this semi-tropical-looking giant grass...also known as hardy sugar cane and hardy Pampas Grass. You can hardly beat this grass as a specimen plant...it's just huge. For most of the summer, it's a large fountain of long leaves. This is actually my favorite aspect of the grass...it's very graceful and demure for its size. The individual blades are really long (like 5-6') but all arch gracefully out from the center of the clump. Not heavy-looking, the blades dance in the slightest breeze...looking like ribbons caught in the wind...absolutely love it!
As fall approaches, Saccharum stretches up it's blooming stalks...which seem to top 10' in my garden...so tall that they are hard to capture well in photos. The stalks are kinda fabulous by themselves. They are covered in fine hairs and are blushed with red...really striking. In my garden, the blooms so far haven't quite opened completely. In warmer climates (and with more liht, probably) they would be large, open panicles of pinkish-silver. Still...I'd grow it just for it's form alone...it's that good!
Now for something very different...Pink Muhly Grass. I first discovered this grass from Nan Ondra's book, Fallscaping...which, if you've never read, you MUST! While this grass is pretty nondescript for most of the year, staring in late summer/early fall it sends up dozens and dozens of stems topped with pink blooms. By the time it's in full blooms, the entire plants seems to be engulfed in a haze of pink...it's truly breathtaking...and so unexpected, both from a grass, and at this time of year.
Here you can see a close-up of the flowers...each bloom is tiny...but there are so many produced that you get a wonderful, cloud of rich color!
As I wrap it up, here's the front (East) border...
...and the side (North) border.
Panicum 'Blood Brothers'
And I close with another shot of 'Blood Brothers', just can't get enough! And now I'm off to visit the blogs that I've been unable to for the past few weeks...woo-hoo!