Friday, December 28, 2012

A seedy situation...

Well, Christmas has come and gone yet again...and now, free from distractions of the holidays, I turn my attentions to the garden. Amazingly, here in Portland, we are still waiting for frost (although some outlying areas have had frosts already).

While quite a few gardeners would rejoice at a winter without a hard freeze, I always view them with a degree of suspicion. While no one can say that mounds of collapsed, blackened foliage are pleasing to the eye, frosts bring a finality to a chapter of the gardening year. They mark the end of one year...and make way for the next by clearing away the previous years' growth.

echinops seeds
It's been so warm (and wet) in fact, that the seed heads of a few plants have actually situ! I first noticed it on the Echinops above. Most of these get stripped by Finches during the winter...but the few that escaped notice have started their own little air born colony!

echinacea seeds
There are also loads of Echinacea seed heads that have sprouted...perhaps I'll lob these over the fences of a few neighbors in my own version of "seed bombing"!

Of course, the dark side of all this is the proliferation of weed seedlings. I'm going to guess that every Portlander currently has a large, healthy crop of Popweed "popping" up around their gardens. I learned the hard way that these need to be eradicated before they flower...or they'll fling their seed everywhere. Luckily, they are pretty easy to weed out when they are small.

impatiens balfourii
The exceedingly fertile Impatiens balfourii have also started appearing already in the back garden. I swear, every single seed must germinate...and they are tougher than you think. I always think of Impatiens as being delicate, shade and moisture-loving things. I had self-sown seedlings growing in paving sand, between pavers in half-day sun all summer...and while they wilted during the hottest part of the day...they looked fine otherwise.

knautia in gravel
Naughty, naughty Knautia! Seeing this mini forest of Knautia seedlings, I'm struck at how hard they were to get to germinate when I winter-sowed them a few year ago. I think maybe 1 in 24 seeds, in the garden, they self-sow with abandon! I will definitely have to cull these out this spring...and will likely give them away to others as well! This is one of those plants that whose positives far outweigh its least in my mind ;-)

knautia in chairknautia in chair close
As I was taking stock of the back yard (trying to ascertain if a certain Lily was close enough to dormancy that I could risk moving it) I noticed something in the seat of this chair. At fist, I thought it was merely leaf litter...but a closer inspection revealed more Knautia seedlings...growing right in the frame of the chair itself!

While you'd never be fooled into thinking it's summer right now, with all the green about, it certainly doesn't feel like winter!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick post today, as there's Christmas Dinner to finish up (ah, the smell of turkey is filling the house...divine)! I hope all of you out there are having a pleasant holiday, hopefully with friends & family.

diamonds  2959
And here's a reminder that even in the darkest days of winter, there is light and beauty...if you only look for it :-)

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pheasant's Tails for Foliage Follow Up

anementhale yellow green
I'm so rarely on time for Foliage Follow-up...but if I get it done within a week of when I should, I still feel pretty proud of myself. Now, hold on to your seats, you're going to be shocked to hear that I'm going to talk about...yes...a GRASS!

anementhale yellow v  2959
For the moment, the name of this particular grass is Anemanthele lessoniana (which, sounds amusingly like a spell straight out of Harry Potter). Perhaps it is a spell, which, in Latin, means "Change colors all year long!", because that's certainly what it does. The plant above is planted in my north parking strip, and is partially shaded by our Persian Ironwood tree. At the moment, it's mostly green with hints of gold and orange.

Anementhale red
This (somewhat sad) specimen, however, was growing in the dense shade of my Rhus typhina 'Tiger Eyes' all summer. Not only that, but it never received a drop of water ( bad). I'm not sure what causes which colors to appear in these grasses, but the stress during the summer seems to have blushed the whole plant with tints of red and russet...quite fetching...particularly in the low light of winter.

anementhale yellow  2956
Stress seems to bring out the best colors in this grass. Here, a seedling I got at a plant swap this spring is perpetually golden in color. Again, I think I maybe remembered to give it a drink 3 or 4 times this year...other than that, it's pretty much fended for itself.

anementhale yellow  2958
This range of color variations throughout the year (dependent on conditions) is what gives this grass its common name, Pheasant's Tail Grass. While one common name is enough to keep in mind, to add to the confusion, I've also seen it listed as New Zealand Wind Grass...and it's often still listed under its previous Latin name, Stipa arundinacea...confusing, right?

anementhale in december  2951
This is the biggest and oldest clump of Anemanthele I have...the first one I the back yard 2 years ago. At first, it seemed like it was going to stay a tight little tussock of foliage forever, but this summer, it's really come into its own...even after being completely covered by the rambunctious perennials around it all summer. It's now a generously graceful fountain of foliage...and I really love it. This one stays mostly olive-green for most of the year...but is always shot-through with strands of gold and ochre. It does transition to a more colorful form during winter, but may be too sheltered to really develop the strong coloration in other parts of my garden.

anementhale in back from north  2952
Nonetheless, it's a beautiful (if subtle) grass...and I really dig it. A bonus, its evergreen (or ever-gold, -red, -orange) here in Portland...yet doesn't form thatch (at least not that I've found) like so many of the Sedges tend to do after winter.

anementhale lessoniana  1796
Of course, once early summer rolls around, I'll also get to enjoy its lovely flowers, which emerge as sikly tassels and soon explode into a pinkish-purple veil, obscuring the plant for months in forthy goodness. Anemanthele is hardy in Zones 8-10, so if you fall in that range, give it a try!

For more Foliage-y goodness, head over to Pam Penick's Digging!

Oh...NEWS FLASH! We got a little bit of snow this morning in didn't stick in my area...but it sure was purdy while it lasted :-)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - December 2012

geranium rozanne december 2012  2951
It's hard to believe it's the middle of December already, where did the month (heck, the YEAR) go? I never expect to have anything alive, much less blooming, in December...but here in Portland, we've had another crazy-mild fall so far. At least in my neighborhood, we haven't had a freeze yet, so many plants are still hanging on. They aren't exactly the picture of beauty, for the most part, but they are green.

The things that give me the most joy, right now, are the various seedheads and grasses. As a whole, the garden is pretty scrappy, however. The best blooms, at the moment, are coming from Geranium 'Rozanne'...even while most of its foliage is flushing bright red, it keeps blooming! There are also some lingering blooms on a few stubborn plants who just refuse to give up. Agastache 'Blue Boa' is still blooming a bit, as are various Knautias. Persicaria 'Inverleith' keeps blooming, even while most of it's foliage is a pile of mush!

The good news for today is that I got my camera back...yay! Sadly, I've not be home while it's actually light don't have any pictures other than the Geranium above that I snapped one day last week when I ran home for lunch.

As I look out my office window right now, I see a flock of Goldfinches is happily perched in a patch of Agastache 'Golden Jubilee', gorging themselves on the bounty of seeds they provide. It's nice to see the garden providing food for wildlife, even during it's downtime.

For more Flowery Goodness, head over to May Dreams Gardens!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Hidden Gem in the SE...

se portland garden header copy
My "backlog" posts continues today with a little garden gem I discovered this spring. I have a bad habit of visiting nurseries almost every weekend during spring/summer/fall. The two closest to me are the Portland Nursery on Stark St. and the 7 Dees on Powell. Earlier this year, I discovered my own little shortcut between them. Ok...not really a "shortcut", but a preferred route.

corner view
One day, as I drove my "Nursery Route", I noticed a house I'd driven past countless times and not given a second glance.

Well...I noticed the garden...not the house! At that point, it was still the lush growth you see above was still small, but there was a massive mound of ferny foliage along their front walkway...which I guessed was Ferula communis...a plant I have tried...but just can't give the space or sun it wants. I made a mental note of the garden...and each time I drove by over the next few months, I'd check out the progress.

Closer Corner Garden
As it turned out, this garden had A LOT of wonderful plants...and I don't know how I never noticed it before now!

I'm not the biggest Rose fan...but these add just the right amount of "pop" to the corner of the garden...especially in contrast to the Anchusa and Barberry.

Right at the corner, there is this amazing, glowing Anchusa (I'm guessing). I guess I never realized how big they got, in most books, they looks so short...this was a large, bulky plant...and those electric!

Sidewalk 1
Looking down the sidewalk, you can really see that these are gardeners after my own heart...this is a full, lush garden that wears its heart on its sleeve.

fence with flowers other direction
Such vigor and opulence...I love it!

Cephelaria gigantea budcephalaria duo
One of the other plants that I absolutely adore in this garden is Cephalaria gigantea. I tried to grow these for a few years...but, again, they need more sun and ROOM than I can give them. I can't get enough of those fabulous, subtle blooms...that perfect shade of soft yellow...but on plants of RIDICULOUS proportions...these had to be at least 10' tall.

Cephalaria bokeh
I can't help but love's those long, sinuous stems and the simple, honest blooms...and judging from the hum in the air, they are just as popular with pollinators and all other scabious.

nepeta along path
As I walked along the sidewalk, I noticed, for the first time, the picket fence. Honestly, I kind of love the lavender color. I never would have thought of it myself...but it's the perfect foil for the plants in this garden. Looking at the photos, I thought how the color was neutral enough that it didn't call attention to itself, like a white fence would have. matches the Nepeta perfectly!

loeblia tupa stemlobelia tupa patch 2
Another of my plant crushes that I don't even bother with is this Lobelia tupa. They really need a good amount of space to be happy (not to mention full sun). Look at those glorious velvety leaves...and those stunning blooms! The blooms are small enough that the red isn't overpowering...just the perfect amount to give a smoldering glamor to a garden.

fence vignette
I totally dig how the soft cloud of Ferula foliage frames the Lobelia here.

ferula vferula blooms
Speaking of the Ferula, the plant that drew my attention to this garden in the first place, here it is! By the time I took these photos, hey were blooming gloriously...but the folaige had already started to yellow. Sadly, Ferula is monocarpic, so dies after flowering.

garden view
Backing up, you get a better view of the garden from this the foreground, you can see part of a very large patch of Arundo donax. I've never been terribly fond of Arundo...feeling it seems a bit too "tropicalisimo" for my taste. Then again...that powdery blue mass of leaves is a nice contrast to the finer texture of the nearby Ferula, is it not?

house front wide
Here is one of the few angles in which you can actually see the house! It's such a low-key, humble wonder I never noticed it until now! To be much as I love the really isn't in-scale with the house...the house is dwarfed by the exuberance of the garden (not that I'm complaining). The house whispers...the garden shouts!

fragraria in drivewaybackyard
The house does have some nice this fancy-schmancy garage door, which probably costs enough to make me fall out of my chair. Love the Fragraria in the driveway. There was also a small sideyard, just in view, with that ubiquitous feature of every contemporary garden, the firepit.

cephalaria stems
So there you have it...and pretty amazing garden that was hiding in plain you have any "secret gardens" you've stumbled on lately?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

We'll Miss You, High Country Gardens

hcg covers copy
Sadly, I think I'll remember 2012 mostly for the closing of two of my favorite garden resources, Wind Dancer down in Salem...and now, as I found out last week, High Country Gardens, which is based in New Mexico.

I'm sure most of you have heard of HCG...and I certainly talked about them quite a bit over the past few years. Getting their catalogs (above) has always been a treat...filled with colorful photos and ravishing descriptions...they always made me salivate a bit! Sadly, due to drought, wildfires, and a slumping economy, HCG was forced to close its doors, ending 19 years of selling amazing plants.

hcg spread
HCG grew many different plants, but their focus was in xeric, or water-wise, plants. I first discovered them years ago, back when I lived in Nebraska. The idea of Xeric gardening was still pretty new to me back then...and browsing the HCG web site was the first time I had seen Xeric applied to anything other than Cacti & was amazing!

Of course, that was about the same time I moved to Portland. For the first few years I lived in Portland, I was a renter...and never did much gardening, since I never knew where my next home would be. I had a few small gardens...but nothing terribly involved. For a time, I forgot about HCG...I lived in Portland, OR, after all...what did we need drought-tolerant plants for!

After you live here for a year or two, however, you realize that it's only rainy during winter. During summer, it doesn't, AT ALL. It's a little freaky when the rain stops like someone threw a switch. Unless you really want to spend the entire summer watering constantly, having a few plants that are at least a little drought-tolerant is pretty beneficial.

After we finally bought our first house, and I started planting the garden, bit-by-bit, I remembered all the online nursery websites I used to spend time on...but couldn't order from, as I didn't actually have a garden. I re-discovered HCG...and ordered a few plants that first year. It was my first time EVER ordering plants online...and you all know that feeling...the first time you open up the box and are stunned to find scrappy, spindly plants!

I planted them, however, and they grew rapidly and were beautiful, even in their first year. It was also the first Agastache I ever purchased ('Desert Sunrise'). I had been convinced to try them because of the glowing praise and great photos on the website. As you all know by now...I was HOOKED! After seeing how healthy and vigorous the plants were, I was now a loyal customer.

HCG box closeup  039
Over the past few years, I've ordered a few more plants from them each winter, to be delivered in the spring...and it was always exciting to get off my bus after work and see that familiar box, full of plants, ready to be unpacked. It's sad to think my order this spring was also my last.

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So, I thank you, Dave Salman and all the crew there in Albuquerque...I know I'm not alone in saying, you'll be sorely missed.