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Monday, March 5, 2012

Joy Creek Nursery Visit - Pruning Class

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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).

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Rubus pentalobus
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.

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Sedum
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!

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Clematis integrifolia
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!

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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.

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Primula
This charming little Primula was only a few inches tall...so cute!

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Baptisia seed head
Another seed pod, this time, I believe, of a Baptisia.

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Magnolia
I was captivated by the interesting mosses and lichens that covered the bark of this large Magnolia.

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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).

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With the help of one of the nursery employees, Smith took us step-by-step as they pruned several shrubs which, over the past few years, had grown into quite a thicket. His biggest point was that one should have a clear goal in mind, always being mindful of what the natural shape and habit of each shrub is. I have to admit, watching them prune out branches, after a while, it made sense. It didn't seem random...I could see what the process was quite clearly.

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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!

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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!

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After the class was over, I wandered around a bit more...I've always loved the skeletal beauty of spent Hydrangea blossoms.

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CrocusChasmanthium

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Dasylirion
I was loving the way the light played off the textured leaves of this Dasylirion (I think that's what it is!)

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Snowdrops and Fern
For all you Snowdrop lovers...here you go!

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CyclamenSnowdrops

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Snowdrops

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Anemone sead head
Anemones have some of the coolest seed heads...fluffy little tufs with hundreds of little black seeds within...so cool!

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Eryngium seed head
Even if they didn't have lovely colors while blooming, the spent blooms of Eryngiums make them excellent photo subjects!

Yowler
The resident feline, Yowler, decided to help me find my way over to the retail area...very thoughtful, don't you think.

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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?!?

50 comments:

  1. So..what advice did you take away for pruning the English Laurel? I'm quite curious because I believe I may have inherited some at the house we'll be moving into and whatever it is, it's been there for ages and it's beyond a simple tear out. sigh. Can you believe that I have not been to Joy Creek yet and I live in the county it resides? I know, it's quite embarrassing. Cheers, Jenni

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    1. OH Jenni...you'll love it...he basically said go at it with all you've got! Hahahaha...he said you can be pretty brutal to them and they will usually pop back...so, I guess, thin out the branches and just shape it as best you can! OMG...you MUST go to Joy Creek soon! If you go next month, the garden will be much further along...it's amazing during summer!

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  2. I am on the other end of the pruners once or twice a year, in that I teach the prunning classes at work. One of the things I encounter most often is that people feel that you have to prune and if you don't the plants will suffer. I always want to ask who prunes the trees and shrubs in the forest.

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    1. Such a good point, Les! I usually tend to ignore the my shrubs until they start to block our sidewalk or our windows ;-)

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  3. Oh I so wish I would have gone to that class! I'm about to do a little pruning and knowledge is a good thing. Darn.

    I think the Sedum you photographed is maybe Sedum spathulifolium 'Purpureum'...and yes, that's a Dasylirion! It's an extremely easy "dangerous plant" should you be considering inching a little over to the spiky side. Good for biting people in the parking strip! Just not the easiest to find around here. Were they selling them at Joy Creek?

    Lastly I am SO HAPPY you bought a Manzanita...and even better that it's just #1 with a #2 to follow soon. Yay for you!

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    1. Between you two I now need a manzanita!

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    2. You know I'll buy however many you two tell me to buy when you see my front yard. :)

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    3. Thanks for the Sedum ID...I will mark it down on my shopping list ;-) I actually might get a Dasylirion (although I think I'm more partial to the gray/blue ones...so we'll see)...I didn't see them for sale...but I do tend to get overwhelmed at nurseries and miss things (sad but true). I'm so excited about the Manzanita...it makes me happy ever time I walk past it now! Heather...you need to get some...with your new house color, they'd look smashing together!!!!

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  4. Your photos are beautiful. Congrats on your newest acquisition!

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  5. Love the photos of the dried seedheads. You have a great eye. I love pruning. Have taught a few classes along the way. My favorite pruning experience was in Germany. My neighbor told me that you prune before the sap rises. (loved her way to explain dormancy)

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    1. I love that explanation...that's one thing we will miss as the older generation passes away...all that wonderful, earthy gardening knowledge.

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  6. I love sea holly. I've tried growing it a couple of times, but they don't seem to do well here.

    I dread pruning, it seems so esoteric. I keep waiting for the light bulb to go off and for it to make sense. :)

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    1. I love them too...haven't grown any yet...but hopefully will remedy that this year ;-) I am terrified of pruning too...I'm just no good at it at all!

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  7. I have been trying and failing to take pictures of snowdrops. The photos here are delightful, you captured their delicacy beautifully (Craig at Ellis Hollow has good snowdrop pictures too.) Wish I could get such clear shots of these tiny beauties.

    My arctostaphylos uva ursi (talk about a mouthful) is a low groundcover but has leaves exactly like your manzanita. I love it as a glossy dense ground mat. It's interesting to see the other forms -- you made a good choice!

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    1. Thanks Laurrie...I saw his post too! They are tricky to get pictures of...you almost have to lay on the ground! I'm totally going to look up your Arctostaphylos...sounds lovely!

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  8. Beautiful photos. Joy Creek used to be one of my favorite mail order companies for Clematis (and other goodies). Hmm...maybe I should place an order.

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    1. Hahahah...you should! If you're ever in our area, you really MUST visit the nursery, the display gardens are just wonderful :-)

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  9. Sounds like a useful class, and yeah, who wouldn't want a good excuse to go visit Joy Creek Nursery again? I remember all those clematis in bloom last summer!

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    1. You know me, Pam...I must go out there every other weekend during the growing season...I'm pretty sure I've reached garden-stalker status with the staff ;-) Oh yes...they are sort of famous for those amazing Clematis...one of which ('Rooguchi') I'm seriously trying to find a place for this year!

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  10. That class looked fun! I'm still amazed at the amount of gardeners that are afraid to prune, thinking they will hurt their plants, when in most cases it's the other way around.

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    1. Hahahahaha...so true! I'm not usually afraid I'l HURT the plants, just that I'll make them look like a bad 80's haircut!

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  11. Thanks for the great photos! There's still lots of snow on the ground here;sigh! Love the colors in that sedum!

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    1. Oh dear...hopefully winter is on it's way out soon...spring is almost here!

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  12. Pruning always intimidates Scott so I need one of those classes. Especially when it comes to my hydrangeas. All the winter textures of the plants are so marvelous. I would have been taking some of those Baptisia seeds. LOL! Is that stealing? Maybe I better rethink that one. Love the Dasylirion. What amazing foliage. Those snowdrops are so lovely and dainty. Have a wonderful week.

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    1. Me too! I kind of want to find someone to garden-coach me in pruning! Hahahahaha...I don't think they'd put you in jail for taking the seeds ;-)

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  13. Love your plant photos! So beautiful, the kitty one is really cute too. Beefing up on pruning skills is always a good thing. I'm pretty comfortable pruning most shrubs (except Hydrangeas, cuz I'm afraid I'll prune and then will not have blooms) but it is a different story when it comes to trees. I have a dwarf peach tree I need to prune but I have to get some advice first, too daunting! I love Joy Creek and went there many times when living in PDX and have mail ordered several times too. Last year I picked up a couple of new clematis from them, can't wait to see how they bloom this year! Great post, thanks.

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    1. Oh yeah...I don't blame you and Lona...Hydrangeas seem to be one of the trickier things to prune (who wants to miss a whole year of blooms...eek!). OMG...I hope you post pics of the Clematis this year...which ones did you get???

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  14. I dragged Richard to Mike's pruning class last year, thinking it would tone down his "crazy man with loppers" routine. Au contraire, the way Mike lit into the Japanese maple he used as a model made R's antics look tame. Maybe he will use another one of those in a demonstration...I guarantee your qualms will be stilled.

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    1. Hahahahahahaha...that's so funny! He did prune a Japanese Maple at one point...I heard one of the students actually GASP at the first cut...it was dramatic!

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  15. Scott I'm glad to hear about your Manzanita purchase. My favorite nursery on the island is DIG, and they have several varieties I have to consider now. Yep, Tom cat to a copy cat here. cheers!

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    1. OMG...I hope you get one...it would look great at your place...and you have lots of room to really do them justice.. No complaints here, you know what they say about imitation and flatter ;-)

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  16. Scott, another talent to learn. btw, I awarded you the Versatile Blogger award that is going around the garden blogger world right now. Thanks! Greggo.

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    1. Thanks, Greggo...I'll totally try to figure out what to do for that!!!

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  17. Fun visit! Great to learn something while you are plant shopping, right?

    I have not heard of Manzanita... will have to look it up now! Thanks, Scott.

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    1. hahahaha...it's the best! Manzanitas are beautiful, if they are hardy for you, you should give them a try!

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  18. I am so jealous! Joy Creek is one of my favorite spots on earth! I've only made it back to Portland once since we moved away and then only for a few days. You can bet I made sure I got to Joy Creek (actually left my spouse alone at the Waterfront Blues Festival to go back a second time- who cares about music when there a PLANTS to be oogled?)

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    1. Hahahaha...that's AWESOME! I love it too...even when I know I don't have room for more plants, I still find myself wanting to visit just to see the gardens :-)

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  19. I'm a lichen that photo of the magnolia.
    Now that's a bad pun, but I really do like the photo.

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    1. Hahahahahahaha...oh man...that's awesome!

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  20. Always a joy to visit your blog... my, your pics are wonderful... especially the crocus

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    1. Thanks so much...isn't the Crocus amazing...the light was so wonderful that day :-)

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  21. What a great day and so interesting. I'd love to be able to have Manzanita myself, but it's not something hardy here. Can't wait to watch your's grow over the years.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. It was fun...so sad you can't grow Manzanita :-( I'll make sure to post lots of pics of it over the next few years ;-)

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  22. I love my Rubus(creeping Rasberry). I have had it for several years and love how it changes throght the seasons.

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    1. Glad to hear it...I had decided to add some to my parking strip this year after seeing it there...really love the color (and the texture!)

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  23. Your photography is always top-notch but your shot of the crocus is absolutely drop dead gorgeous.

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    1. Awww..thanks, Phillip...I'm feeling a bit rusty after spending most of the winter inside...glad to know I'm not totally out of practice!

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  24. Scott, you sure have an eye for photography! Thanks for sharing what you saw with us! I've never heard of that plant you got. You'll have to show us a picture of it planted.

    That sounds like a great class. I planted a few bushes, viburnums and a mock orange in the back of my garden across the street to block the view of the neighbors' yard. I had intentions of learning how to prune them, but so far, have put it off, and you can tell by looking at them. I wish I could remember when they are supposed to bloom. I don't think they did last year.

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  25. When we first arrived at our house, the front garden was full of shrubs "pruned" into amorphous blobs. They were soon got rid of. The class sounds great for gaining confidence.
    Wonderful photos.

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