This past weekend was fabulous here in Portland! I honestly don't know what the temps were, but I didn't even need my jacket once! Sunday morning I decided to make a trip out to Joy Creek Nursery for their first class of the year, focusing on pruning. Now, I admit, I don't have many shrubs, and the ones we inherited with the house are not ones that I would ever have chosen myself (English Laurel...meh). However, unless I'm willing to rip them out, I decided it was time to learn how to approach pruning them. In the past, Norm and I will basically attack them in early spring in hopes of keeping them from swallowing our house (they are FAR too close to our foundation) and to keep them from becoming totally amorphous blobs...a condition far too common (and one of my pet peeves).
On our way out to Scappoose, we stopped at Grand Central Baking Co. for a little breakfast. I noticed this cool groundcover, Rubus pentalobus, growing all around the building. It's not terribly interesting in summer, but during winter gets this amazing burgundy coloring...which you can just see in the photo, as they are returning to their summer green already.
We arrived at Joy Creek a few minutes early, and I took the chance to wander around and check out their gardens. I was quite smitten with this little red-leaved Sedum, and wish I'd asked which variety it was...drat!
I was quite pleased that the staff at Joy Creek hadn't completely cleared away last year's growth yet, which meant there were a lot of fascinating seed heads still intact! As always, I'm fascinated by seed heads, and Clematis have some of the best. Love the tufts...so striking!
Heather with winter coloring
I really love these Heathers that turns such vibrant colors during winter, almost better than the flowers themselves! I really like the orange-red of this particular one.
This charming little Primula was only a few inches tall...so cute!
Baptisia seed head
Another seed pod, this time, I believe, of a Baptisia.
I was captivated by the interesting mosses and lichens that covered the bark of this large Magnolia.
And now it was time for the class! Taught by co-owner Mike Smith, the class covered the principles on how and when to prune, followed by some demonstrations. One of the biggest hurdles to pruning, Smith mentioned, was knowing you should prune...but needing to feel you have permission to do it! Honestly, I admit, that's kind of how I felt. Smith touched on various reasons to prune, including shaping, improving air circulation and removing damaged limbs & branches. A good rule-of-thumb, for most cases, he brought up, was that right now, toward the end of winter just before most plants have broken dormancy, is the best time to prune (except for spring-bloomers).
Here Smith and his helper (whose name I can't remember for the life of me) are pruning a very vigorous Dogwood which had gotten quite out of control!
One of the last topics Smith tacked was that of pruning Japanese Maples...which has to be one of the most confusing (and touchy) subjects. Honestly, I still think I would be afraid of pruning one myself!
After the class was over, I wandered around a bit more...I've always loved the skeletal beauty of spent Hydrangea blossoms.
I was loving the way the light played off the textured leaves of this Dasylirion (I think that's what it is!)
Snowdrops and Fern
For all you Snowdrop lovers...here you go!
Anemone sead head
Anemones have some of the coolest seed heads...fluffy little tufs with hundreds of little black seeds within...so cool!
Eryngium seed head
Even if they didn't have lovely colors while blooming, the spent blooms of Eryngiums make them excellent photo subjects!
The resident feline, Yowler, decided to help me find my way over to the retail area...very thoughtful, don't you think.
Arctostaphylos (Manzanita) 'Greensphere'
While there were many plants that tempted me (aren't there always?), I was really drawn to the Arctostaphylos (which I will from this moment forward refer to as Manzanitas....because it's way easier to spell). I've been wanting one for years...but just couldn't settle on one. I was talking to Maurice Horn, the other co-owner of Joy Creek, about my Hell Strip and how I REALLY wanted a Manzanita and his eyes lit up and he sprinted over to one of the retail shelves. He highly recommended this variety, citing its small size, dense growth, wonderful foliage and ample blooming. Eventually, it may reach 4' x 4' (but Horn says he has had one for 10 years and it's just now 2' tall).
The minute I saw it, sitting there on the shelf, I suddenly realized I didn't want this in my parking strip. I wanted it right by my front steps. I have a Catmint there now, and while I love it, it's not much to look at once the neighborhood cats discover it. This will be PERFECT! Plus, it'll be safer from damage from careless passers-by! I'm still going to look for a larger Manzanita for the parking strip this year ('Sentinel' looks promising)...I still have dreams of crazy, contorted mahogany bark :-) BTW, Loree at danger garden has a post today about the Manzanitas around her neighborhood, it's awesome, so go check it out!
If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend attending one of the classes at Joy Creek, there is a list of them HERE. There are a few I'm thinking of attending, including the one on April 8 on Low Water Gardening, which Horn indicated was aimed precisely at Hell Strip gardening. Plus, it's a good excuse to visit the nursery, not that we NEED an excuse, right?!?