Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Feed me, Seymour!

Macleaya cordata
Macleaya cordata (Plume Poppy)

I always think the emerging foliage, especially with its purple coloring, seems oddly reminiscent of the Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. At the very least, it's surely the product of some sort of inter-planetary breeding, right? Just to be safe, let's keep our distance.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

And......We're Off!

Can you believe it's almost spring already! Well, if you ask the garden, it's been spring for a few weeks, as there is a plethora of fresh, new growth appearing at every corner. The past few weekends have been both relatively warm and dry...which are all the reasons I need to get out in the garden!

While Norm has been continuing work on the shed, I've started cutting back last year's growth on the grasses and perennials...and started digging up the front (east) parking strip. The winter rains have made the digging far easier than it was last summer when I dug up the north parking strip for some impulse purchases.

front parking strip feb 12 2012  1232
While the digging went quickly, the lifting and tossing of the sod was not super-fun. The heavy, wet soil weighs a ton...and after two tipped-over wheelbarrow loads, I finally figured out the amount of sod I could safely move in the wheelbarrow without it tipping over! Here you can see I've removed about 2/3 of the sod already...I figure in one more weekend I can remove the rest. Oh yeah...that's my sloppy, messy garden in the background...not exactly the picture of loveliness in mid-February, is it...deep sigh ;-)

front parking strip feb 12 2012  1233
While I'm really excited by the prospect of planting this parcel of land, it's somewhat bittersweet, as it's the LAST bit of free space I have on my property...eeeeeekkkk! I'm torn with wanting to cram in as many plants as I can...or having a somewhat coherent design.

Front HellStrip With path
Here's the plan I've come up with so far (the top side is the street side, the bottom faces the sidewalk). I'm debating putting a 1' wide gravel border on the street side, to allow for people opening and closing car doors. Without it, people actually wouldn't even be able to open their doors...let alone squeeze past the garden. It's a bit of a compromise...and I'm sure won't do away with careless drivers bashing the plants on occasion, but I'm hoping it will at least mitigate the damage that seems inevitable.

Here's a legend for deciphering what those colorful blobs in the plan actually are. Nothing is set in stone yet (as I've not yet purchased any of the plants). I am growing some of the plants from seed (mostly the Knautia), while others I'm growing from cuttings or division of already established plants. I change the plan pretty much every other day as I think of a better way to arrange the plants, realize one of the plants would look better in a certain spot, or find a new plant I MUST have...so have to re-work the design to accomodate it!

As is typical for me these days, grasses will serve as the structure of the design, with various perennials filling in around them.

Of course, until it's planted (and even after than) everything is subject to change...as are most gardens! How about all of you...do you have any big plans/projects planned for this year?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Portland Yard, Garden & Patio Show 2012

water spouts closeup  1262
Part of the annual ushering-in-of-spring ritual for many Portlanders is the Yard, Garden & Patio Show. I've gone almost every year since moving to Portland several years ago, and it has become a bit of a tradition for me to drag Norm along with me to the Convention Center.

ygp entrance  1266
As you walk down the steps to the show's entrance, you are greeted with colorful banners, people handing out tote bags and...the unmistakeable smell of bark dust. Actually, the bark dust smell was not as bad as I remember it in years past. This could be, however, because the overpowering "cat-pee" smell of boxwoods practically brought tears to my eyes on numerous occasions. Note to designers for the show...it's an enclosed space...please put a limit on stanky plants!

asian garden  1249
When you first enter the show, you are greeted with several display gardens, which ths year, were themed around certain regions of the world. The first one we went through was the Chinese-inpsired garden...and one of the better ones (IMHO). It was lovely...and indeed had a serene atmosphere, greatly aided by the large pond, which reflected the plants grown along it's banks. It was also one of the gardens that seemed more plant-focused and less about hardscaping theatrics.

hamamelis  1251
Hamamelis blooming in the Chinese Garden
One of my favorite winter-blooming shrubs, the Witch Hazels were well-represented at the show.

edgeworthia reflected  1250papyrus  1258
Edgeworthias aren't my favorite shrubs...but this one did look lovely and graceful reflected in the pond. The Papyrus if from the next garden which, I guess, was Mediterranean-themed...I really should have paid more attention to the banners around the floor! I actually got a dirty look from Norm for reaching out and touching the Papyrus (I can't help it!), so I wanted to include a photo of someone else touching it as well...see, I'm not the only one obsessed with touching plants!

fabric galore  1260
This fabric-draped structure was certainly high on style...but I'm not sure how practical all that fabric would prove to be in all but the gentlest breezes.

potten palm  1257
Again, so not my style...but Palms do make impressive specimens in situations like this, don't you think!

water spouts  1261
In spite of myself, I rather liked these urn water-fountains...except the spouts looked like they were slathered with gold paint. I'd have preferred something a little more subtle...perhaps bronze or copper with a bit of patina?

fire  1259
I'm so old-fashioned...I do NOT get the appeal of random "Fire Pits" and features, and I do wonder, in Eco-Conscious Portland...is an open flame used purely for decoration really wise a use of resources?

meticulous  1264checkerboard  1263
I think this garden, more than the others, exemplified the sort of "style-over-function" feeling of many of the display gardens. I know, I know...they are like window displays...not meant to be truly practical, but inspirational. Still...I'd like to take away a few ideas and inspiration from these gardens...not imagine how many people I would have to employ to maintain such a fussy, fastidious design.

bare garden  1256
Norm and I were both baffled by this "garden". It was almost entirely bare...most of the space was just gravel (and maybe some decomposed granite?). Where are the plants?!?

formal english garden  1255
I have to admit, I'm no fan of "formal" gardens, in general, but I found this to be one of the better display gardens. Even so, like most of the others, it felt more like a park...or a space to pass-through, rather than anywhere I'd imagine lingering.

formal english fountain  1254
I DID like this fountain and cobblestones. Oh...to have room for such extravagance (not to mention the funds)!

heahers  1253
I've tried to grow Heathers several times and always kill them...so I'm resigned to admiring them in others' gardens. Love this patchwork of them...so lovely.

fountains  1252
If you want a water feature...this was the place for you...it definitely seemed like the favorite for most of the kids at the show!

plants for sale  1248
Of course, the big reason to go to the show is the vendors! Several area nurseries were in attendance selling green goodies to area gardeners. I have to admit, nothing really caught my eye this year...running out of space means being judicious about plant purchases!

bee instructions  1245
I was really intrigued by the urban beekeepers...and judging by the little crown around them, I wasn't alone!

honeycomb  1247
YUM...honeycombs on display!

red hellebore  1244
I've never understood what the fuss with Hellebores was all about...but these new colors might just bring me around :-)

My one purchase! Last year, I wanted to get some of these iron cattails, but the girl who sells them was SOLD OUT...argh! I have no idea where I'm going to put them...but I have all summer to figure that out, right?

Did any of you in the Portland area make it to the show...did you see anything good...did I miss anything amazing (it happens quite often)?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Foliage Follow-Up - February 2012

Geranium Ann Folkard
Geranium 'Ann Folkard'
Finding interesting foliage around the garden at this time of year is far easier than finding blooms...even in my mostly-deciduous garden! Normally there wouldn't be Geranium foliage around at this point (well, except for Geranium macrorrhizum), but this year a few of them remained evergreen, including 'Ann Folkard', which even had a long-lasting show of it's autumnal coloring, shown above.

Saxifraga stolonifera
Saxifraga stolonifera
I got this during our spring Plant Nerd Road Trip...oddly, I can't remember who gave it to me anymore! It's a pleasant little low-grower. with wonderful foliage...I especially love the little hairs that grow on the leaves, and you can't quite tell, but the underside of the leaves is a wonderful, rich burgundy.

Anthriscus sylvestris Ravenswing
Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'
I doubt this is normally evergreen, but again, it has been this winter. I love the color of this foliage...it supposedly reseeds like crazy, but I haven't noticed any seedlings so far.

Geranium Katherine Adele
Geranium 'Katherine Adele'
Another Geranium that isn't typically evergreen, this one has looked wonderful all winter...just love it.

Corydalis Bronze BeautyArtemisia Powis Castle
Corydalis 'Bronze Beauty'Artemisia 'Powis Castle'

Euphorbia Faded Jeans
Euphorbia 'Faded Jeans'
I've mentioned before that I have a love/hate relationship with this plant. I loved it during its first year, when it was a compact little mound of foliage, then, unfortunately, it bloomed and has looked ratty ever since. I'm not sure what to do about it...cut it to the ground and hope for the best? Give it away to someone more forgiving? I might give it another year...but in a garden as small as mine, I don't have room to indulge plants that never quite look decent...except for winter :-(

Heuchera Marmalade
Heuchera 'Marmalade'
Another plant that looks amazing for a while in spring...then kind of sulks during the heat of summer. I'm also giving this one more year to prove itself.

Bracken Fern and Oxalis Oregana
Bracken Fern and Oxalis oregana
Now this is a grouping that exemplifies what most people think of as typically Pacific Northwestern...both of these plants are abundant in wild areas...and really do look perfect together.

Oxalis Oregana
Oxalis oregana
Another selection of our native Wood Sorrel...this time with a red reverse to the leaves!

Pennisetum Hameln
Pennisetum 'Hameln'
Of course, one of the biggest components of my winter garden are the dormant grasses. At this time of year, right before I cut them back in a few weeks, they are mostly bleached out and have very subtle color. They are also at their most ephemeral...mere ghosts of their former selves.

Panicum Shenandoah
Panicum 'Shenandoah'
One of my favorite grasses, the Panicums have wonderfully sturdy winter form...even though our recent heavy snow flattened them for a day, they popped right back up. Love the subtle variations of color between this the other grasses.

Schizachyrium The Blues
Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues'
I'm fascinated by the constant change in the coloring of Schizachyrium. From spring green to a steely-blue during summer it transitions to reds, oranges and purples in fall, only to fade to a subtle silvery-pink during winter...amazing!

Stipa gigantea
Stipa gigantea
Some grasses, like the above Stipa, are atually evergreen in our mild climate...this Stipa, which I'll have to move this spring, forms an arching mound of very fine leaves.

Uncina rubra
Uncina rubra
The tiny hook sedge I bought because Norm liked it this spring...I do love the color...but it's just so SMALL! It gets a bit overwhelmed during summer...will have to move it this spring...perhaps a contrasting container of some sort...to really show it off?

Anemanthele lessoniana  1231
Anemanthela lessoniana
My absolute favorite grass for winter color...also knows as Pheasant's Tail Grass. I have a few of these, and the ones in the backyard (which gets no direct sun from October-April or so) remain mostly olive-green with just a bit of orange and gold thrown in. This one, however, which gets some midday sun, positively GLOWS...love it!

For more fab foliage, head over to Digging, hosted every month by the wonderful Pam Penick!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - February 2012

scaled parrotia
Parrotia persica 'Persian Ironwood'
I almost forgot about GBBD again this month...granted, I didn't actually think there'd be anything blooming in February. I realized this morning that the few lingering blooms I showed in my last post got lopped off when I cut those plants (mostly the Knautia) back this past weekend. Then, suddenly, I realized I DID have blooms this month...on my Persian Ironwood trees!

Parrotia duo
Persian Ironwoods (Parrotia persica) are related to Witch Hazels and have similar (if not quite as showy) late winter/early spring flowers. I have to admit, they aren't especially showy...you could be forgiven if you walked right past them and didn't notice them at all, still...they garner me a place for this month's GBBD! I'm looking forward to spring beginning in earnest...with the bulbs already up and growing, it won't be long.

Check out May Dreams Garden for more of what's blooming in other bloggers' gardens around the world!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Winter That Wasn't

january backyard  1244
The backyard a month ago, in January.

I might have mentioned previously, but we've had a crazy-mild winter here so far in Portland. To be honest, it doesn't feel like we've actually had winter at all! Above is the backyard last month...still green for the most part...which is crazy! Right after I took that picture, we actually had our first (and probably only) snowfall of the season...which flattened pretty much everything. Even so, nothing died back as a result of our short-lived snow (gone within a few hours).

The Calamagrostis were completely green when I cut them back this past weekend. I wasn't sure if I should leave them...but as the splayed foliage was covering all the emerging plants beneath them...I decided to cut them back as I normally would, were they dormant.

salvia purple majesty  1243
Salvia 'Purple Majesty'
This Salvia (also in the back yard) has also remained green this winter...which is all the more surprising as I've actually lost it in the past over the winter. Granted, I think the backyard is it's own little micro-climate, with things being warmer overall. Still...it's amazing that this borderline-hardy plant is still green!

teucrium bloom  1242
Teucrium hircanicum
While many plants, including this Teucrium, form little basal mounds of foliage that last throughout the winter, this year they never really died back at all...and this one is even trying to bloom!

knautia blooms  1241
Knautia macedonia
Another plant that also failed to die back over the winter...and is still blooming!

geranium katherine adele  1240
Geranium 'Katherine Adele' and Pennisetum macrourum
All of the Geraniums maintained a winter presence this year as well...which I've never seen before. True, they looked pretty scraggly for the most part, but the fact is that they were still alive, never going completely dormant. While I wasn't as surprised by the Calamagrostis remaining green, the fact that these warm-season Pennisetums remained green all winter...crazy!

verbena homestead purple  1236
Verbena 'Homestead Purple'
Another plant that remained totally evergreen this winter...it actually looks happier than it did all summer!

verbena bonariensis  1237
Verbena bonariensis
More surprising that the much-hardier 'Homestead Purple' was the fact that the semi-tropical Verbena bonariensis never died back this year either. I have a dozen or so plants all around the garden...and all of them are still green and now putting out new growth.

While I'm not complaining about the milder-than-usual weather this winter, I do worry what this lack of vernalization will mean for some of the plants. Hopefully, it won't have any long-lasting effects...as most of the hardier plants went dormant as usual and it was only the plants with lesser hardiness that seemed unwilling to slumber away their winter months.

USDA Zoomed In 2
Zone 9...Yowza!
On a (somewhat) related note, as most everyone has heard by now, the USDA released a new interactive zone map a few weeks ago...and many of us got a bump in our hardiness rating. At first glance, it looked like all of Portland was still in Zone 8...but upon looking closer, I realized I'm close enough to the downtown core than I benefit a bit from the "heat island" effect...and have moved up to Zone 9! Crazy, I know, especially as I'm practically the only Portland gardener who doesn't even come close to testing the limits of hardiness. On the other hand, I guess I can relax about things making it through the winter...well, as long as the squirrels don't dig them up ;-)