Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Many Happy Returns July 31, 2010

Did you ever give up on a plant and find that, despite being left for dead, it pulled a Lazarus and came back to the land of the living? I had two such pleasant surprises in my garden this week.

I managed to resist the Phormium craze for ten solid years of gardening; then I saw ‘Sundowner’ and my resolve gave way. When I planted it (as well as about $75 of trailing Rosemary to replace a huge stretch that had died of frost), I reasoned that no winter could be as cold and harsh as the one we had just endured. Ha.

Of course I was wrong about the winter, and thought the poor flax had been a casualty along with the rosemary, the new plants of which all croaked. Then, this week, I noticed signs of life and growth:

Struggling flax

Sometimes, the whole “wait until June” thing is right, only it should be “late July” instead! Maybe we will have a “normal” winter this year and it can establish itself a little better. Well, a gal can always dream!

Another one I thought was gone for good after one happy summer was Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Rainbow.’ I was super bummed, I really liked that gaudy plant with the silly name. But as spring turned to summer, its spot remained empty and I gave up.

But then, about two feet away in my daughter’s veggie patch in the parking strip, looky here:

Gaura volunteer?

Could it be?? I had thought this plant was cold-hardy but maybe it’s not. Or maybe it died for some other reason. In any case, I’m happy to see it has given itself another chance at life in my garden.

Any cases of “oh no, it’s gone… wait, wait, it’s back!” in your garden this season?


Metamorphosis June 8, 2010

Filed under: flora,perennials — greenwalks @ 7:48 pm
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I feel like I should rename this endeavor Failblog. Oh wait, already taken! This is probably the longest stretch I have gone without posting since starting Greenwalks in 8/09. Sorry to those who came here daily, at least for a while, in search of something new! And also sorry that I have not been around to visit folks and see what everyone’s gardens have been doing. I’m sure it all looks splendid!

While I have been rushing off to end-of-school functions, music rehearsals, and other non-gardening-related pursuits, perennials and self-seeding annuals have been keeping the garden moving despite my neglect. We had the rainiest first few weeks of June in history, which was a bummer for planned outdoor events and Seattle’s general mood, but good for the gardener with no time to water!

The Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) that were already planted in a tough spot here when we arrived five years ago (next to a cedar tree with challenging surface roots – nothing else will grow there) continue to flourish. The orangey-red ones always seem to open first, followed by the pale pink, and then the coral ones, which are still to come.

I’m sure I’m not the first to compare their journey from fat pupa-like buds to fluttery-winged butterfly-like glory…

Oriental poppy flower bud

Oriental poppy starting to unfurl

Oriental poppy opening up

Opened poppy

Poppy center

They keep their fiery glow going well into the evening:

Evening poppy

Butterflies don’t live very long. Neither do poppies.

Lacy poppy decay

But while they last, what magnificence!


See It, Want It, Get It April 27, 2010

Sometimes the road is long from falling in love with a plant to actually getting it into your own garden. This spring, though, I was lucky to see, ID, and successfully nab a few new favorites.

Being at the Center for Urban Horticulture every week is a revelation, literally – I get to experience these amazing gardens as they unfold, week by week, with something new in flower or an interesting leaf I hadn’t noticed before, a fragrance, a composition coming to the fore, and more.

Just a few weeks ago, the Sea thrift shot up its flower spikes and burst into pinky-purple bloom:

Sea thrift in bloom at CUH

I love the way it forms spreading clumps that hang over and soften the hard line of the path:

Sea thrift drifts at CUH

Armeria maratima is hardy in Zones 3-9 and is ideal for a dry, sunny site or rock garden.

Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ has become increasingly popular here in Seattle. I imagine it self-seeds pretty fiercely but I prefer its form to the giganto euphorbias, and the flower color is just gorgeous, so tropical-looking in this cold-hardy variety. Since it is kind of a skinny plant, it seems to look best in multiples or coming up through other plants, as it is here through masses of daffodils:

Euphorbia grifitthii 'Fireglow' blooming at CUH

And the red-etched, veiny leaves are almost as nice, especially after a rain…

Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow' leaves

These two were definitely on my (too long) shopping list when I went to the annual Florabundance plant sale this past weekend, benefiting the Washington Park Arboretum. And what do you know? I found them right away and they weren’t even expensive!

Sea thrift:

Sea thrift from plant sale

Another one, with a pale pink, almost white flower, ‘Snowball’:

Sea thrift 'Snowball' from plant sale

‘Fireglow’, not blooming yet but I bet it will soon:

Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow' from plant sale

If that was where I’d stopped, I would have been really proud of my restraint! Are you curious what else I got that blew my plant budget for the spring??


There It Is! March 11, 2010

Filed under: perennials — greenwalks @ 2:06 pm
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Way back in the summer of 2008, I bought and planted a hebe ‘Red Edge’ and then moaned about its lack of signature coloration. Then I noticed that it redeemed itself by living through not one, but two harsh Northwest winters in a row when all of my other hebes bit the dust. It’s in the far end of my parking strip and I don’t get down that way too often this time of year, so I was pleasantly surprised to see its new foliage is displaying the scarlet-rimmed characteristic for which I was lured to buy it in the first place!

Hebe 'Red Edge' shows its colors

I think it’s pretty safe to say that this one will be a keeper. I’ve read that it prefers regular mulching and water and doesn’t thrive in clay soils, but it is supremely neglected in this location and seems fine. It might never grow very wide, but that solves yet another issue, the need to thin it. I am all about the easy-care plants these days.

Hebe 'Red Edge' in early spring


No Bee Shortage Here July 5, 2009

Filed under: my garden,perennials,Uncategorized — greenwalks @ 9:46 pm
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Does anyone know the latest on the dire predictions about honeybee colony collapse? I have not noticed any decrease in the number of bees this year, and in fact I almost feel like there are more. Are they rebounding, or am I just lucky to be near some healthy hives? My daughter counted 13 at a time on just one side of our lavender alley today. This is a honeybee, right??

Bee on lavender

I hope she’s not allergic to bee stings. We tend to put out the sidewalk chalk right next to where everyone is buzzing around. So far, no run-ins! I hope it continues. I figure they are much more interested in the lavender than they are in us.

Lavender and chalk

See some bees, then it’s time to draw some bees.

Chalk bees

Lavender has many uses and delights, but right now I love it most for how it’s nourishing our vital and threatened friends. Buzz on, little bees, buzz on!


My Garden is Smarter Than Me July 2, 2009

I lack the design sense to think up successful plant pairings, but sometimes a combination of self-sowers will show up that I find delightful.

Coreopsis and Mexican Feather Grass (both self-seeded)

I didn’t even know what Mexican Feather Grass was until you guys told me, but now I love it. I’m not sure where it came from, but I’m letting (some of) it stay in my parking strip. Ditto this coreopsis (of course I just bought one to replace one that died last winter, before noticing this one), which I can see has migrated from up the street in a neighbor’s street garden. The only drawback is that both of these are growing at the edge of the sidewalk, when they’d probably look better inset a bit. If I find a spare un-lazy moment, I might try to move them. Then again, if we never have any rain in Seattle anymore (there’s been nothing to speak of since early May), then transplanting should probably wait indefinitely.

Do you have any self-sown plant combos that you are enjoying this summer?


Cool Thoroughfare Planting June 24, 2009

Who says that major city thoroughfares and nice streetside plantings can’t mix? Someone in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood decided to buck the trend of boring parking strips along the busiest street in the sector, 45th Ave, and put in something really enjoyable to walk past. This strip is actually in two sections, separated by a crosswalk.

Wallingford parking strip

Even though cars, trucks, and buses thunder by regularly to and from the freeway, the neighborhood is actually very walkable and having some nice perennials to look at on the way distracts from the vehicular noise.

I kind of wish I could go back and start over in my own parking strip, choose plants more carefully and intelligently and have something harmonious like this. It does look like a designer was involved, but in a good way.

Epimediums and barberries

Epimediums, barberries, and small-leaf hebes are all tough, drought-tolerant plants that should need little or no care throughout the year. Grasses like the blue fescue below and a mass of Carex morowii ‘Ice Dance’ on the edge (guessing on that one) are also able to take the heat and keep looking good.

Blue fescue and epimediums

In the second part of the strip, purple spikes of Linaria harmonize with silvery groundcover and the brilliant orange of California poppies.

Linaria spikes in Wallingford parking strip

I missed the neighborhood garden tour, as it happened when I was on kid duty all day and I didn’t think she could hack it. Plus, $15 per person, maybe another year. Did any of you locals go?

Wallingford Garden Tour sign