Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Of Fog & Frost

Winter Interest 1 - Fog&Frost 2
Hello everyone...I hope you're all faring well so far this winter! I have to apologize for my lack of posts these past few weeks. We've had a huge surge of projects all wrapping up at the same the past few weeks (and the upcoming several weeks) are pretty hectic at work. As a result, I've been getting home late...and kind of just want to collapse into my bed and veg out a bit.

foggy frosty garden  3123
Overall, it's been a very mild winter again here in Portland. The weekend before last, however, we got our first real frost (at least in my 'hood)! Not only did we get frost...but it was really foggy in the early morning hours. I was surprised how many people bemoaned the fog. While it's not exactly fun to drive in, I LOVE fog. There's nothing quite like that surreal quality that a dense fog imparts onto the world. Your own neighborhood suddenly feels mysterious...even a little foreboding...I love it!

foggy north border  3137
As soon as I realized we'd had frost, I dashed out in my PJs to get some pics. I love how quiet and still the neighborhood felt, as if the whole world was holding its breath for that moment.

north side ecinacea
Scenes which just the day before had seemed drab were suddenly thrown into relief.

agastache black adder  3144
The tiered spires of Agastache suddenly reminded me of a Pagoda.

allium  3061
Allium seed heads seemed like earthbound snowflakes.

The multihued ribbons of Anementhale had gained lace trim.

echinacea  3117
Even the wonderfully sinister-looking seed heads of Echinacea received their dollop of icing.

anemone  3095
I'm always mesmerized by the whimsical-looking spherical baubles that are the Anemone's seed heads.

Rudbeckai clump 2echinacea panicum  3193
Again with Rudbeckia and Echinacea...I was glad the ravenous Finches had left a few seeds intact to catch the frost.

calamagrostis  3165
I always imagine the recurved seed heads of Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' look somewhat like claws.

foggy couple  3139
As I snapped hundreds (ok, thousands) of photos in my pajamas, a neighborhood couple strolled by, on their way to the bus stop. I think they probably rolled their eyes as they approached, but as they approached the corner, I actually heard them gasp, "It's a winter wonderland!" They came back to tell me that I should make sure to take pictures of the front too ;-)

echinacea patch  3201
How amazing is it...the way frost highlights the structure of things...making me see them in a new light!

eutrochium  3027
I'm enamored at its ability to edge such delicate structures into elegant traceries.

frosty monardaoriganum  3068
On some plants, the layer of frost was almost a dusting of snow.

colorful sedum shot
I hadn't noticed until now how the red coloring in the stems of Sedum 'Matrona' was still so visible. They were a warm counterpoint to the cooler tones surrounding them.

manzanita  3031
Spider webs, which had been invisible, are suddenly strung like garlands between branches.

pennisetum  3103
This Pennisetum was especially spectacular, each individual awn delineated with white.

willow and grass  3130
Believe it or not, this is just some weedy grass that escaped my watchful eye during the growing season. At this moment, however, I'm grateful I's the perfect bit of filigree to contrast to the red stems of the variegated Willow.

panicum northwind
Another group of grasses that are particularly handsome after a frost are the Panicums. Truth be told, there isn't really a time when they aren't lovely...but after being drenched with rain for the past few months, the frost transformed them into gossamer.

veronicastrum  3155
The structural, candelabra bloom stalks of Veronicastrum always seem wonderfully sombre to me...even when festooned with frosty banners.

schizachyrium  3173
While it's a somewhat unpopular sentiment...over the years, I've really come to value winter.

pennisetum  3089
True...for us gardeners, it's not full of the non-stop excitement of spring, the lustiness of summer, or the abundance of fall. Still, there is a special value to the quietness of winter that I find appealing.

panicum rudbeckia  3148
After a busy year in the garden, I need a break...and, if nothing else, winter forces me to take a few months off. The break in activity isn't just physical, but mental. I appreciate the perspective it gives me. When I'm in the midst of planting, watering, moving things around, etc., it's harder to see the big picture at times.

panicum blood brothers  3183
Truth be told, for me, part of the joy of gardening (a large part) is marking the season, and celebrating each of them in their turn. Without fail, I tire of them at some point, and feel the urge to move on to the next. I could never live somewhere without clearly-defined seasons...I think I'd go mad!

euthrochium  3098eryngium  3092
Winter also gives me my first real moment to ENJOY my summer ludicrous as it sounds. During the growing season, I'm all to often distracted with the things that aren't working...the things that bother me. Looking back at photos of the summer garden now, I can't believe I was so worked up about things. While far from perfect (and what garden is ever perfect), the garden looked pretty good last year!

echinacea trio  3135
As I grow older and older (not by choice, I guarantee you), I also find that I appreciate the winter garden for it's own charms. There is something visceral about we move inside to snuggle up in blankets to watch re-runs of The Wonder Years and pour over seed catalogs, outside my window the garden contracts. It withdraws too.

echinacea calamagrostis  3163
We are not so different...and I feel a sort of kinship with the garden in winter. There's a sort of unspoken agreement that we'll wait this out...and meet up again in a few months.

agastache purple haze  3125
I always think of the gardening year as a symphony. Without tempo changes or crescendos and decrescendos, it wouldn't be nearly as dynamic or entertaining

rudbeckia  3146
There is a truth in the withered forms and blackened seed heads in the winter honesty. This is life. It's a cycle, with beginnings and endings in continuous motion.

pennisetum v  3199
I hope you're making the most of winter wherever you are...

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Visit to Dancing Oaks

Dancing Oaks Header copy
Well, I must admit, I've been a negligent blogger lately. Since I don't get home until after dark, I have to take enough photos during the weekend to have anything to blog about...and sometimes that just doesn't happen! Luckily, I still have a backlog of things from last year to fill in the gaps.

As I blogged about last October, Heather (of Just A Girl With A Hammer) and I made a trip down to Wind Dancer to indulge in some plant-shopping. Since we were so close, we decided to hit up Dancing Oaks as well.

sunny border  3008
Sadly, by the time we made it to the nursery (enduring the Trail of Tears that Dancing Oaks calls their road), we only had 30-40 minutes to look around the garden, let alone shop for this will be a very brief tour!

Bladder Senna
The sun was perpetually in front of me, so every photo in this post will be DRAMATIC! This is Colutea x media (aka, Bladder Senna)...which was utterly jaw-dropping in the late afternoon light.

bladder senna  3010
Just look at those cool seed pods! If it had to guess, I'd say this small shrub was fairly innocuous for most of the year...but WOW...if I had room, I'd definitely get one of these!

Stipa gigantea
Of course, my eye always goes for the gorgeous grasses, like this Stipa beaten gold, this one.

As lovely as the blooms of Nigella damasca are, the seed pods are even better (IMHO). There is something fabulous about them...and that feathery, finely-dissected foliage is so nice.

Maple & Helianthus
At first, I thought the burgundy foliage in this shot was a Hibiscus...but in looking at it now, it is probably some form of Acer...what unbelievably saturated perfect during autumn.

Bells of Ireland
I've never been a huge fall of Moluccella Laevis (Bells of Ireland), finding them more of a novelty than anything else. The dried seed heads, however, are gorgeous...don't you love how those papery bracts catch and diffuse the setting sun?!?

Lobelia Tupa
Another gorgeous plant that demands a bigger space than I could give it, Lobelia tupa...I can't put my finger on what it is that I love about this plant...probably because it's EVERYTHING!

Another long-time love of my, Echinops (Globe Thistle). Again, I just love how the backlighting gleams off every surface of these.

Catananche caerulea - Cupids Dart
I stopped in my tracks at the sight of this large patch of Catananche caerulea (Cupid's Dart)...the silvery seed heads seemed to glow from within...utterly stunning!

Catananche caerulea - Cupids Dart2
Yup...another gorgeous!

Aster & Solidago
At this point, an employee reminded us they were closing we rushed about, looking at the plants for sale. I'm sad to say, we didn't have nearly enough time to search through them nearly as well as I would have liked...but I guess now there's even more reason to return this year :-)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Quest for your Holy Grail

pennisetum macrourum
We all have them, right? Those plants that we long for...that seem to be just out of reach, if not completely unavailable? Like most gardeners, I always seem to have one plant that I'm OBSESSED with finding. For years, after visiting the Montreal Botanical Garden, I hunted for a source of Pennisetum macrourum (above). I desperately wanted to have those tall, glowing wands in my garden. Luckily, a few years later, I did find them, at a local nursery (Wind Dancer), no less! Was I sated...hardly!

Teucrium closeupIris Gerald Darby and Knautia Melton Pastels v
It seems every time I turn around, there's some new plant for me to become enamoured of. Take the Teucrium on the left...I saw it on Nan Ondra's amazing blog, Hayefield, a year or two ago, and became convinced that it was the perfect plant for me! I found it a last autumn (at what was our last Fall HPSO plant sale) at the Far Reaches booth. I couldn't believe my luck...and snatched up all three of the plants they had on the table! To my delight, they've proven to be amazingly beautiful (and tough) plants.

On the right, are two other plants that I searched for...Iris 'Gerald Darby', which I also discovered on Hayefield. If you haven't noticed by now, Nan's blog is a dangerous place for the plant-obsessed! I fell in love with the purple-flushed new foliage...the almost-black flowering stems...and, of course, those simple, elegant purple blooms. Planted around it, yet another plant I became obsessed with, Knautia 'Melton Pastels', which I first saw a few years ago in an issue of Gardens Illustrated, which is, perhaps, my #1 source of pure GARDEN PORN.

schizachyrium blue heaven  1819
Of course, then there are the plants that we WANT to grow...but just can't, for whatever reason, or that just don't do particularly well in our gardens. For the past few years, I tried and tried to find a Schizachyrium (Little Bluestem) that would stay upright in my garden. In general, many of the prairie grasses will grow well here, but our cool-ish summers (these are plants adapted to blazing-hot, full-sun conditions, after all) produce weak growth that tends to lodge (flop over) as the plants get taller. Imagine my delight last winter when the owner of Wind Dancer, Carolyn Kolb, told me the new cultivar, 'Blue Heaven' (above) was supposed to be very upright...and not prone to flopping here in the PNW!

blue heaven  2890
Of course, it was practically all I could think about all that winter and spring...and when I drove down last summer to get a few of them from Wind Dancer, I practically skipped home with sheer delight. I'm happy to report that they were not only stunningly beautiful, but NONE of them flopped...not in the slightest!

Andropogon Red October
Of course, as soon as I find one thing I've wanted...I move on to another thing. Last fall, Adam Woodruff, a friend and AMAZING designer (seriously, check out his's gorgeous) emailed me the photo above. Intrinsic Perennials had sent him a few plans to trial...and the one that immediately grabbed my attention was the reddish grass in back. It was Andropogon 'Red October'...a new introduction. I was in immediate, complete love! Much like Little Bluestem, Andropogon (Big Bluestem) is a plant I've wanted to grow in my garden for years...but like Little Bluestem, is prone to flopping here in the PNW. Needless to say, however, that visions of this burgundy beauty have been in the back of my little mind all winter.

Then, last week, I got an email from Klehms Song Sparrow Nursery about their new 2013 listings...and I popped over for a look. Lo and behold...they had not one, but TWO new Andropogon varieties for sale! I've read that 'Indian Warrior' is supposed to be more upright (not as prone to lodging) as other it might just solve my Big Bluestem Dilemma...but oh, the color of 'Red October' makes me weak in the knees. I'll probably get one of each, because I'm a glutton for punishment!

How about you, what is the plant (or plants) that you are on the hunt for? Is there a plant that you want to grow so desperately that you plant it (and kill it) over and over?