Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Lilac Time (Almost Over) May 6, 2010

Filed under: flora,lilac syringia scented flowering shrub,scent,shrubs — greenwalks @ 2:54 pm

Spring is advancing so quickly, I find myself wanting to press the pause button and just slow it down a little. Cherry blossom season has already wound down, the tulips are pretty much gone, and the scent of lilacs in the air is about to be a thing of the past until next year. I have a poorly-pruned (by me) white lilac in my back garden, its bloom time is very short and then the brown of the rotting blossoms is so unsightly. I think I prefer the regular old, uh, lilac-colored variety.

Since I can’t send you the miraculous perfume over the interwebs, I hope you have a chance to inhale it in person at some point this year or in future ones. There’s nothing quite like it!

Lilac time

(Lilac flower near sidewalk in the Wedgwood neighborhood of Seattle – just steps away from the historic Scarlet Oak I wrote about earlier.)


Plant Amnesty Free Event April 18, 2010

Filed under: shrubs,trees — greenwalks @ 10:02 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Short notice, but if anyone would like to join me, I’m going to try to go to this:

Meeting of Like Minds, Hosted by the Heritage Tree Committee

When: Tuesday, Apr 20, 2010 — 7pm – 9pm

Where: Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st St, Seattle, NHS Hall

What: Fun evening with delicious potluck food. Free and open to the public.

For more information: Email us or call 206-783-9813

Speakers: Mike Lee and Arthur Lee Jacobson

Topic: From Wilted to Wow: Best Shrubs and Trees for Northwest Summers

The summer of 2009 was a valuable and sobering study of the drought and heat effects on landscape plants. Yet for every wilted or thirsty shrub or tree, certain species thrived merrily. You can plant lovely trees and shrubs that will thrive with little or no summer watering. In this joint seminar, nurseryman and landscape architect Mike Lee will suggest shrubs for Northwest gardens, and plant expert Arthur Lee Jacobson will recommend perfect trees.

(I have been reading, and very much enjoying, Arthur Lee Jacobson’s highly opinionated and enjoyable books, “Trees of Seattle” and “Trees of Green Lake ” – this sounds like a fun event and a great way to learn from some of Seattle’s greatest plant-savvy minds.)

The poster below is from a different Plant Amnesty event, which my family attended last year. It was great! I hope they are planning to do it again.


Pink pieris April 7, 2010

Filed under: neighborhood gardens,shrubs — greenwalks @ 2:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

I saw this Pieris japonica cascading over a retaining wall behind a public park on a sunny early-spring day. Pieris is ubiquitous in Seattle gardens and as such is sometimes considered rather dull and uninspiring. But all you need to do is walk by when it’s in bloom to know why it is so thoroughly planted here – the honey scent is almost overwhelming in its sweetness, and its common name, Lily-of-the-valley shrub, is well-chosen. I like these pink-blushed delicate blossoms more than the plain white ones.

Pink pieris

The shrub, a native of Asia, is hardy in zones 6-8 and is tough as nails. You can prune the heck out of it and it always springs back (I had one in a previous garden, in semi-shade). It can grow to 12 ft. tall if you don’t keep after it, unless you get a dwarf variety such as ‘Debutante’ (3 ft. high/wide) or ‘Little Heath’ (2 ft. each way). Or just pick a big open spot and let it grow freely. I think that’s the way I’m going to try to treat plants as much as possible from now on.

Plus, it’s deer-resistant, for anyone who cares about that! Plants go in and out of fashion, but the proven performers that work hard in our gardens will probably always be around.


Weeping Tree January 26, 2010

Or maybe it is we that should be weeping, for this tree whose form is so, uh, unusual.

Strangely pruned birch tree

I am guessing that it is a weeping birch tree (Betula pendula youngii) that has had its branches clipped back uniformly to give it this bizarre shape. Kind of like a medieval monk’s tonsure, never the best look on humans.

Odd pruning jobs on parking strip plants are really standing out to me these days. People are really putting the “fashion don’t”s out there for us all to see!

In a recent post, there was a discussion in the comments field about topping vs. pollarding vs. just plain old hard pruning. I am no expert, but I believe the following photo shows the technique known as pollarding, which is frequently done to encourage new growth from particular trees and shrubs. As I have been wanting to try pollarding on my out-of-control red-twig dogwood, I was interested to see that these had already been pruned. Am I already late? Yikes, time to haul out the loppers and try to be brave, I guess!

Pollarded red-twig dogwoods in January

This BBC/UK page has a simple plant-by-plant pruning guide for shrubs that respond well to hard pruning, as well as a video of a guy with thick Scottish (?) accent taking his clippers to some dogwoods and willows to encourage new growth. I love how he says “it might seem crrrruel,” my sentiments exactly, which I guess is why I’m having such a hard time getting around to it!


Insist on Cistus June 3, 2009

Filed under: shrubs — greenwalks @ 1:26 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The one-gallon Rockrose (cistus) I planted at the end of my parking strip that’s furthest from the house (and hose) a couple of years ago is at least three feet wide now and fully established. I highly recommend this drought-tolerant shrub to anyone looking to add a little height and a lot of width to a dry spot – I barely remembered to water it at all when I first planted it, but it seems not to have minded. Now it’s covered with blooms like this:

First rockrose (cistus) bloom

I still don’t water it much and have never fertilized or otherwise done anything to it. It blooms once in a single and fairly short profusion and then goes back to being a green clump, which is a bit of a drawback, but it keeps the weeds away from that area and is evergreen in my climate, Zone 8. This is probably the last year I’ll be able to just let it be before I have to figure out when and how to prune it.

Cistus Nursery on Sauvie Island near Portland is beloved of some of my favorite garden bloggers, Megan of Nestmaker and Loree of Danger Garden. They seem to focus more on agaves, yuccas, and other desert-y plants but maybe they have a nice collection of their namesake plant too. I hope to visit there someday and bring home some cross-border beauties.


Should it Stay or Should it Go? May 24, 2009

Filed under: pruning,shrubs,structures — greenwalks @ 10:07 am
Tags: , , , ,

We are attempting to wedge a 4′ X 4′ X 6′ high playhouse into our small backyard for my daughter to goof around in, and debating whether or not to completely take down or just limb up an uninspiring, very plain (probably?) shrubby dogwood or leave it to screen the neighbors during spring-summer-fall. During my deliberations, I was reminded of one of the Clash’s most famous ditties and changed it around a little…

Blog friends you gotta let me know
Should it stay or should it go?
If you say that it is mine
It’ll be here til the end of time
So you got to let know
Should it stay or should it go?

Place where playhouse will go

(Unknown dogwood(?) is in middle between white lilac on left and red twig dogwood on right)

Not always leaves leaves leaves
It’s just okay instead of trees
One day is grey, next is green
So if you want us not to be seen
Well come on and let me know
Should it stay or should it go?

UGL (Unidentified green leaf) - dogwood?

(Leaves are pretty ho-hum, I don’t even remember flowers or fall color, but it’s tall at the moment and is the only thing blocking the neighbors on that side.)

This indecision’s bugging me
If you dont want it, set me free
Exactly what it’s supposed to be
Don’t you know which plants even fit me?
Come on and let me know
Should I cool it or should I blow?

Dogwood leaf string?

(A Master Gardener taught me a trick once to test if a leaf is a dogwood – gently pull it apart and see if there are any “strings” holding the separated parts together. This one seems to qualify.)

Should it stay or should it go now?
If it goes there will be trouble
And if it stays it will be double
So you gotta let me know
Should it stay or should it go?

Limbed up dogwood

(I started by limbing it up, to see if the playhouse would even fit underneath. The bad pruning cuts would be shielded by the house and the lilac and dogwood would provide a kind of canopy for the little inhabitants.)

Deadline is Wednesday, since the house is arriving the next day. Cast your vote here in the comments! Honesty counts.

For a classic Clash concert video from 1982, click here. Joe Strummer, RIP.


Borrowed View – First Camellia March 14, 2009

Filed under: flora,shrubs — greenwalks @ 1:15 pm
Tags: , , ,

The first camellia of spring bloomed yesterday, about six inches from my side porch. I don’t have space to put in a tree of my own, so I just “borrow” this view.

First camellia

I refrain from taking any blossoms to float in a bowl, which is very tempting, especially since I have to pick up a lot of debris when the flowers drop later on!

At our previous place, we had a fairly un-spectacular single-form camellia that had rather gaudy yellow flower centers. I far prefer this one, which is double. Or is it ‘formal double’? Honestly, I need to take a botany class. Camellias come in single, semi-double, anemone-form, peony-form, rose-form double and formal double. If you can remember and apply all of that to any that you happen upon, I applaud you!

To learn more about camellias, click here to visit the American Camellia Society’s site.

Do you have any borrowed garden views you enjoy (or detest)?