Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Great Grasses - Achnatherum calamagrostis

Grasses_AcnatherumCalamagr copy
I know what you're all thinking, "Another grass post, for real?" Yes...ANOTHER one...because this is Grass Season, y'all! Seriously, though, it's that time of year when, no matter what else is happening in the garden, my focus is always on the grasses.

One of the newer grasses this year (to me, at least) is Achnatherum calamagrostis, also known as Silver Spear Grass. I actually planted these last spring, after buying them at the Wind Dancer Garden booth at the Spring HPSO Plant Sale.

Acnatherum clump
I'm not sure what made me buy them, I've only ever seen them in a few books, but for some reason, they seemed interesting and different. They were small plants, and didn't do much that first year. As soon as spring hit this year, however, they were up and growing...and even started blooming in June, right about the same time most of my other cool-season grasses bloom.

Acnatherum detail
The blooms start out green, and resemble long, recurving, silky tassels.

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When blooming, there are very open and airy...extremely delicate-looking.

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As they finish blooming, they actually enter their most beautiful phase...they morph into these light, fluffy know you want to brush them!

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Unlike most cool-season grasses, which bloom all at once in the spring...this grass blooms continuously throughout the season. Even now, it's sending up new blooms. This creates the fascinating effect of having flowers in all stages of development on the plant simultaneously.

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Achnatherum calamagrosts wants well-drained soil in full sun, which, of course, it doesn't really get in my garden. I've been so impressed by it this year, however, that I plan on moving it into the front garden next year, right near our front entrance. I want to have it where I can see it every day...and where it will catch the morning and evening sun.

acnatherum calamagrostis  2082
Achnatherum calamagrostis gets about 3' x 3', and should be hardy down to Zone 5! The only place I've found it locally (the Portland area) is the aforementioned Wind Dancer Gardens, outside of Salem (which is SO worth the drive). Otherwise, I believe High Country Gardens sells it via mail order.

If you ever have the opportunity, get this won't be disappointed! It is not only graceful, but very easy to please...mine manages to be stunning, even in far less-than-ideal conditions. While a single plant is a beautiful specimen, I can imagine that a grouping of them would be truly spectacular.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Plant Crush - Pennisetum macrourum

pennisetum macrourum header
A few years ago, on a trip to Montreal to visit a friend, I happened by this plant in the Montreal Botanical Garden, Pennisetum macrourum. It was love at first sight.

pennisetum macrourum
Just look at those amazing, tall stems...those fabulous white flowers, catching the light so elegantly...waving in the slightest breeze.

Try as I might, however, not only couldn't I find them for sale anywhere...I really couldn't find any good information about them. How hardy were they...what were their water requirements?

hpso  495
Amazingly, just as I'd sort of forgotten about them, I found them! There they were, at the Wind Dancer Garden booth, at the HPSO Plant Sale last fall...sigh...remember where there was a FALL plant sale :-( I snatched one up instantly...I was ELATED! Of course, I wanted at least 2 more to create a decent patch of them in my went down to their nursery outside Salem to get them (and a few other grasses as well)!

north border  864
Here they are shortly after planting last fall (toward the bottom, just left of center). From what I had learned from Carolyn Kolb (owner of Wind Dancer) they were pretty tough...and fairly drought-tolerant, once established. Fall planting seemed perfect...since our mild winters make for good root growth, plants can get comfortably established and be ready to grow once spring rolls around.

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Seen here in October...I was already loving them...they offered such a delightful textural highlight to the garden...I couldn't wait to see how they performed the following year.

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Early JulyEarly August
This Pennisetum surprised me by being evergreen throughout the winter. Then again, it was an unusually mild winter, so it may not be typical for them to stay green during most winters...we'll have to wait and see. They form an expanding clump of VERY tough grey-green leaves. Sadly, I can't barely see the clumps themselves in my garden, since they are buried underneath a very exuberant Geranium. It doesn't seem to diminish their vigor, however. They grow tall quickly...the leaves only get about 2.5'-3' tall (at the most) but the blooms, which start emerging as early as June, elongate until they reach about 6' tall.

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The blooms are, in a word, incredible! They start blooming from fairly close to the clump, but as the stems elongate, they fade from a creamy beige/tan to a glistening white.

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Line many grasses, the blooms are amazing at catching the light...they are magical when backlit...seeming to glow, especially against a dark background.

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I always try to get outside during the early morning and late afternoon hours so I can enjoy the play of light on the garden...and this Pennisetum is often the star of the show.

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I should mention that, in addition to its beauty, it's VERY low-maintenance. I have these planted in the hell-strip on the side of our house and they've only been watered a handful of times all year (and usually only when I'm watering something else).

geranium rozanne & Pennisetum macrourum  2010
So, there you have it, and incredibly beautiful which I can imagine in a million different scenarios in the garden. If you ever need a tall exclamation point in the garden...try this grass...I doubt you'll be disappointed!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Summer Visit to Joy Creek

Joy Creek Header
First off...a big THANK YOU to all of you out there who piped up with words of commiseration and encouragement after last week's really helped me get out of the funk I found myself in afterwards. In case it was ever in question (and it wasn't) GARDEN BLOGGERS ROCK!

This weekend was a GREAT weekend. First off, the weather finally turned and we had cool (even cloudy) mornings...and sunny by cooler afternoons. I had some gardening friends over on Saturday, which was great fun (of course), and gave me an excuse to finally sweep and shovel the loose gravel off our driveway.

On Sunday, I was also lucky enough to visit Joy Creek Nursery to hear a lecture by Sue Milliken & Kelly Dodson, owners of Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend, WA. Of course, any excuse to visit my favorite nursery is welcome, right?!?

Kelly & Jane
Kelly (above, left) and Sue regaled us with tales of their trips to far-off lands (mostly China) in which they searched for and catalogued hundreds and thousands of plants, some of which were new discoveries. It was interesting and entertaining, as they showed us some of their favorite new introductions (one of which was an amazing Iris that I failed to get the name of...argh!).

After the speech, we were welcome to peruse the plants they had brought along for sale...including the amazingly velvety-red Salvia on the left (I was tempted, but has to be over-wintered indoors, so a pass). Even though I don't need any more Crocosmias (nor do I have room for any more), I was still tempted by their display of them.

Panicum Shenandoah
Sedum and Panicum 'Shenandoah'
My willpower prevailed, however, and I decided to venture out into the display gardens and take a look at how things were doing. It seems I seldom visit Joy Creek in the height of summer, so it was a treat seeing things so big and full. I love Panicum 'Shenandoah' (above), and hope mine looks this good someday (although mine are probably in too much shade to look this fabulous). Now that I think of it...I think I bought mine here a few years ago on Maurice's recommendation. A word to the wise, if he ever recommends a plant to you...LISTEN, the man knows what he's talking about!

Yellow Sedum
I wish I had remembered to ask what this yellow-flowered Sedum was...I loved it in contrast to the red-flowered variety next to it...must put in on my "must-have" list for next time I visit.

Spiky eryngiumSeedpods
I love the blooms (spent and otherwise) of the Eryngiums...they are so very photo-friendly. I'm not entirely sure what the seed pods are on the right...but I found them fascinating as well.

Molinia skyracer
Right as we entered the display garden, off to the right of the driveway, we were greeted by this amazing Molinia...truly spectactular! I have to say, they've sited it perfectly, backed by the dark-leaved tree (Beech, perhaps) so you can really see that gauzy scrim of blooms and stems. I'm not entirely sure which Molinia this is, my initial thought was 'Skyracer', but it could very well be 'Transparent'. Either way, LOVE it!

RudbeckiaPurple Clematis
Yellows seemed to really dominate the garden at this time of year...but there were so many wonderful purples and pinks to be seen, as well. Joy Creek is well-known for their collection of Clematis (oh, to have room to grow them all). My personal faves are the smaller, urn-shaped ones, like the purple/blue one on the right ('Rooguchi', perhaps)?

Helenium tijuana brass
In the far reaches of the display beds was this amazing display of Helenium ('Tijuana Brass', I think).

Clematis tanguticacrocosmia vignette
More wonderful Clematis greeted me near the Helenium above...and don't you love this perfect late-summer/early-autumn vignette of Helenium, Fennel and Miscanthus...perfection!

I think (judging by the seedpods) that this is a form of Asclepias...but I'm not entirely sure! I've never seen one this exact color...and the flowers seemed different, as well. I'll have to remember to ask next time.

eryngium giganteumAllium seedheads
More wonderful seed-heads and spent blooms. I love the pairing of the Eryngium giganteum with Crocosmia on the left...and few things beat Alliums for the long-lasting appeal of their seedheads.

Purple clematis group
Another Clematis I found in the display gardens...just stunning backlit!

Molinia variegata
As I approached the Danger Zone (a.k.a, the retail area) I caught sight of this resplendent Molinia 'Variegata'. Backlit by the afternoon sun, the entire plant was ablaze with color...I could feel my resolve weakening...

...and even though I SWORE I wasn't going to buy anything...and don't even know where I'm going to put it, I got that Molinia anyway! I should have known better, I can never resist Joy Creek's plants...but I consider it extremely amazing that I didn't buy more.

They have a nice crop of Schizachyrium (Little Bluestem) this year that I would love to have bought...but unless my neighbor agrees to let me plant his way. They also had a few stunning Andropogon (Big Bluestem) for sale that I REALLY wanted. However, I do have a variety of Andropogon already that struggles to stay upright due to our lack of a full-sun spot in our, sadly, it stayed behind.

So, that was my garden-centric weekend...and our fabulous weather is still going strong...I hope you all had a great weekend too :-)

Friday, August 17, 2012


fuck all
It was one of those days that tested my patience with humanity. I woke up on Thursday to this scene. Yup...someone had ripped up an Echinacea from my garden overnight.

Going around the corner of the house, however, I realized they didn't just rip up 1 plant...they tore out THREE of them. Someone in our neighborhood apparently HATES Echinacea.

There were a few stems scattered here and there...

One of them, they just tossed onto the ground right next to where it had been planted.

The worst loss was this 3-year-old plant, which was a huge component in the North Border. It was completely uprooted (taking quite a few stems of its fellow Echinacea bed-mates). It was discarded a few feet away, near our neighbor's house.

While the loss in the hell-strip out front isn't terribly noticeable (and actually will create some breathing room for the plants which are probably too close together anyway), the hole on the Northwest corner of the garden is pretty bad.

Amazingly, I found a few Echinacea seedlings where that plant had been...I guess now is their time. After our current heat-wave passes, I'll re-position them to give them a bit more room and and baby them for the next few weeks until the rain returns.

cut flowers
At least I got a bouquet out of the ordeal...and, believe it or not, this is probably only 1/3 of all the stems...most of them were smashed.

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And now, let's take a moment to remember how pretty the garden looked for a little while.

To whoever tore up my garden on Wednesday night...I have a shovel on my porch that would love to give you a kiss.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - August 2012

OMG...another Bloom Day! Here in Portland, we're paying for our mild Summer last we're having a run of HOT weather...too hot for me! We broke a a record a week or so ago when we hit 102°...ouch! It looks like this week (tomorrow or Friday) we may hit triple-digit temps again. I know our weather is still comparatively mild compared to what most of the country has been suffering...but it's still pretty awful.

In any case, in spite of the scorching heat, the garden actually looks pretty good. I find that August is that odd time of year when I really don't have to do much except water occasionally and stake a few plants that have been blown over by the wind (which also seems to be a by-product of the heat). August is that odd tipping-point in my garden where things start to almost get out of control. It's not totally unfair to admit it's a bit of a hot mess. Still, that's what I love about the late-summer, early-autumn garden...that feeling that the garden is on it's own course, regardless of what my own intentions might be!

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Agastache 'Blue Blazes'
This gorgeous plant is actually in the front parking strip (which I really will do a full post on someday). It's so small and cute right now...but having seen how big they can get here in Portland (2' taller AND broader than what they are listed as reaching). I anticipate having to move at least one of the plants (right now there are 3 in this bed)...otherwise, they will swallow up the entire bed! Hopefully I can find another Portland gardener next spring who is willing to take it. Even then, I really will have to be better about cutting them back in mid-spring to keep them more compact.

Lily Black Beauty 2
Lilium 'Black Beauty'
The bloom time of Lilies is always longer than I think it is (a good month or so), but still seems far too short. I was sure they would crisp up during our heatwave, but actually seemed no worse for wear.

Monarda bradburiana
Monarda bradburiana
This is a smaller and more demure Monarda than most...very lovely.

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Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'Dicentra macrocarpanos
What would summer be without some Echinacea...tough, dependable and beautiful. The little climbing Dicentra on the right was hidden beneath a few other plants earlier, but has really shot up in the past month or so. I should put some sort of support in for it...but right now it seems happy scrambling around and through its taller neighbors.

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Agastache 'Black Adder'
Another tough plant, the Agastaches absolutely love this weather...they show absolutely no sign of heat stress, and if anything, are reveling in the heat.

Knautia macedonica
Knautia macedonica
One of my favorite plants, I love how vibrantly-colored its flowers are...and how airy the plant is. Even though these are a good 4' or so tall, they are not bulky, so they thread their long, wiry stems through any plant nearby, creating wonderful effects. I should probably dead-head them, but I really like the spent seedheads.

Teucrium Patch with AlliumPersicaria inverleith
Teucrium hircanicumPersicaria 'Inverleith & Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'
The first flush of blooms on the Teucrium are still finishing up, and it's already started re-blooming! This is another plant that I find the spent blooms almost as pretty as the new blossoms, so I leave them on. Plus, they add so much texture to the garden. While Persicaria 'Inverleith' is a tough plant, it's one of the few that really seemed to struggle during our heat wave. The plants, which had grown too tall due to our lack of winter (and long spring) flopped open in the heat and scorched badly. Still, it seems to have recovered a fair bit. It's a good lesson to learn, if it looks like it's getting this tall again next year, I'll cut it back.

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Lilium lancifolium (Tiger Lily)
Another Lily that has only a few blooms left, it seems like it would be more fitting as an Autumn flower...still, I love it, all the same.

Sedum Vera Jameson
Sedum 'Vera Jameson'
One of my new Sedums this year, I'm loving it's wonderful foliage and flowers.

Parking Strip Preview
Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus', Agastache 'Blue Blazes', Sedum 'Matrona'
This is another peek at the plants in the front parking strip...which have amazed me with their rapid growth this yeaer.

Rudbeckia trilobaSedum matrona
Rudbeckia trilobaSedum 'Matrona, Agastache 'Black Adder' & Agastache 'Blue Boa'
My favorite Rudbeckia, Rudbeckia triloba is a short-lived perennial (more often, a biennial) that gets much larger than typical Rudbeckia...but its flowers are much smaller, although borne in such profusion as to completely blanket the plant! Sedum 'Matrona' has become my new "go-to" Sedum, as I love it's pewtery foliage throughout the year.

Salvia purple rain
Salvia 'Purple Rain'
This Salvia has been extra vigorous this year...and I've been loving those rich purple spikes for months.

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Knautia 'Melton Pastels'
Another Knautia...the seed-raised strain 'Melton Pastels', which shows a really nice variety of colors in the blooms. I have 6 or 7 of these in the front parking strip, and it's been interesting seeing the variation.

Monarda Raspberry WineEutrochium dubium & Persicaria polymorpha
Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'Eutrochium 'Little Joe' & Persicaria polymorpha

Eryngium yuccifolium
Eryngium yuccifolium
Technically, these flowers are spent...but I still think they can squeak in as blooms.

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Persicaria 'Golden Arrow' & Panicum 'Shenandoah'
This wonderful Persicaria has exceeded all my expectations. The foliage is amazing all spring and when the blooms arrive, they really are icing on the cake. I wish the foliage didn't scorch quite so easily...I have to be very careful where I site this one.

Cosmos astrosanguineousCrocosmia orangeade
Cosmos astrosanguineusCrocosmis 'Oreangeade'
This little Cosmos was a surprise...I thought they had died over the winter, and so planted something else in their place. A few weeks ago, while planting my new Iris from Schreiners...I smelled chocolate...and noticed these little guys going crazy! I got this Crocosmia (my only one) at Joy Creek a few years ago...intrigued by it's unusual color. It has spread slowly to from a nice little patch...but I do think I need to divide it this fall.

Geranium ann folkard
Geranium 'Ann Folkard' & Rhus typhina 'Tiger Eyes'
This wonderful Geranium really doesn't like heat, and starts to slow down its flowering a bit, but still grows like a weed. I'm always finding it in odd places. This week, I noticed it had started climbing up into my Sumac. Still, I can't complain about the combination.

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Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'
Another trademark summer bloom, the Black-Eyed Susan. I know they are common as dirt, but I love them...and love how easy they are to grow. They are so cheerful and honest...and since so much of my garden is cool in tone...they are a nice counterpoint.

Clematis tibetanaAnemone september charm
Clematis tibetanaAnemone 'September Charm'
Our weather this year has been odd (isn't that an understatement)! Case in point, these two blooms are at least a month or two earlier than usual.

Bees on Eutrochium
Eutrochium 'Gateway'
My Eutrochium (Joe Pye Weed) have been blooming for a few weeks now, and the bees could not be more ecstatic. They sleep on the blooms, wake up, feed, and go back to sleep.

Geranium Rudbeckia Eutrochium
Eutrochium 'Gateway', Geranium 'Rozanne' & Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'
This shot pretty much sums up the wonderful bounty of the late-summer garden. I love how everything is so big, full and vibrant. At any time during the day, I can wander out and be surrounded by the thrum of thousands of bees.

Agastache AvaLilium Black Beauty
Agastache 'Ava'Lilium 'Black Beauty'

Shady Selinum
Selinum wallichianum
I've been so pleased with this plant. I wasn't sure how it would fare in the parking strip, and to be honest, it's one of the few plants in the parking strip that I regularly water. As lovely as the blooms are, I love those wonderful purple stems even more. Not only is the color awesome...but the bizarre branching structure is fascinating.

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Lilium 'Silver Scheherezade'
The last of my Lilies this year...sort of buried in the backyard. I'll have to do some serious editing/pruning next year to keep things under control!

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Sedum 'Red Cauli'Agastache 'Desert Sunrise'
'Red Cauli' is another new Sedum (to me) this year. I actually find myself loving it more and more. THe leaves are a wonderful purplish-red and the flowers are ELECTRIC! I love how it paris with the Teucrium. 'Desert Sunrise' is one of my favorite's so delicate-looking. I've found that this one, in the parking strip, is much happier than those on the sloped borders. I think it gets more sun and has better drainage.

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Echinops bannaticus
This Globe Thistle is a fabulous plant...and bees adore it. I have a little patch of them that is gradually increasing.

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Persicaria 'Firetail'
Although I sort of resent the big, coarse foliage of this plant early in the year (it really does look a bit weedy), I absolutely adore it once it starts blooming. Those scarlet tapers will go from June until frost...and are the perfect compliment to the blue-purple of Geranium 'Rozanne'.

Agastache purple haze
Agastache 'Purple Haze'
This Agastache is a great plant...very upright and compact...and with lovely, subtle coloring.

Ok, so now it's time for the wide shots!

North Border From East
North (Side) Border from the East

East Border from North
East (Front) Border from the North

East Garden from South
East (Front) Border from the South

Backyard August 9 2012
Backyard Garden

august morning  2017
North (Side) Border from the West

I hope you enjoyed your little tour of my garden right now, for more Bloom Day posts, visit Carol at May Dreams Garden!