Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Tiny Treasures February 8, 2010

Filed under: flora,trees,winter — greenwalks @ 8:21 pm
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I owe a big thanks to David Perry of A Photographer’s Garden Blog – without his post about and spectacular photos of the female flowers on his contorted filbert tree, I would never have known to look for them in my own garden. I bow to David’s far-superior eye, camera, framing and description and hope you will check out his blog if you haven’t already – he’s a master.

My “Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick” tree, planted by the previous gardener, has brought me much enjoyment every winter as its ridiculously curvy branches are covered in a busy array of grouped catkins. How can I have never noticed the “girl” flowers before? Well, because they are so absurdly tiny, probably less than 1/8″ across and sparsely scattered around the tree, placed kind of oddly at the spur where the catkins emerged. They look to me like fuchsia-colored baby sea anemones. Do they bloom for longer than a week? I can’t imagine so, but maybe they do. Their appearance has coincided with the end of the witch hazel’s blooming season, so the timing could not be more perfect.

Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ – if you live in Zone 4-9 and don’t have one already, you might want to start saving your birthday money so you can see this happen next spring… (Note: I think this is how all filberts act, not just contorted ones, so you don’t have to save so many pennies if you just want a straight-branch one!)

Harry Lauder's Walking Stick flowers

Contorted filbert female flower emerging

Contorted filbert female flowers and male catkins

Contorted filbert flower

Catkins and flower

Many catkins, tiny flowers

Gracias, David, for helping me see what was right in front of me.

 

Skywatch Friday – January 29, 2010 January 29, 2010

Filed under: sky,Skywatch Friday,winter — greenwalks @ 9:57 am

Moonrise over witch hazel:

Moonrise over witch hazel

Happy Skywatch Friday! See more skies from all over the world by clicking here.

 

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!

 

Parking Strip Report – The ‘Nothing Much’ Edition January 25, 2010

Filed under: my garden,winter — greenwalks @ 11:44 am
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Late January is usually a really un-spectacular time for my parking strip garden. So much so that I am too ashamed to include a full shot of it here! I will stick to the few details that have provided a second glance amid the brownish wasteland that otherwise is sadly characteristic of this time of year. When will I learn? ****Must plant more evergreens!***

I didn’t plant a lot of winter veggies this year. They never do much anyway except sit around looking sad all winter and then bolt as soon as it gets warm, so it was interesting to see that some of the open space is being colonized by volunteer chervil from the mesclun mix that was in the same spot last summer. I do love chervil, but hope I won’t be chasing down seedlings all over the garden forever more.

Chervil

(By the way, I got a new camera for Christmas – Thanks, Mom and Dad! – but haven’t really figured out how to use it yet. I somehow pressed something that made the settings take these strange wide-screen photos, which I guess are kind of arty but not particularly useful for the web. I got it reset eventually, but by then the sun was gone.)

I never covered up my broccoli starts, so whatever survived is tough enough to stay below freezing for over a week! We’ll see if it ends up producing anything edible.

Semi-surviving broccoli

Eek, popping weed is on the march already, thanks to the warm days! Can you see its cute little white flower all set to come up, bloom for a bit, and then release its evil batch of 100% germination seeds?

Eek, weeds are about to bloom!

This senecio should do well in hot, dry conditions, but I think I didn’t water it enough in its first growing season so it is still struggling a bit (you can see yellow/brown patches on some of the leaves, but there has been new growth so I am hoping it will hang in there).

Senecio

For lack of much else to look at, I have left my dead coneflowers to provide a bit of sculptural height. They would probably look a lot nicer with a little dusting of snow underneath, but the senecio is a next-best backdrop.

Coneflower seedhead in late winter

This euphorbia wandered over from the neighbor’s and I transplanted it rather rudely a few years ago, down to the parking strip. Further proof of how tough these plants are – it looked a little sad for about two minutes, and then made a full recovery and is now thriving and putting out its pendant flowers. I was afraid of this plant family for so long, due to its toxic sap, but I am just careful around and also have it in a spot where my kid would never get too close. I just noticed that it has produced its own “baby” a few feet away, which I may move or give away before it gets too big.

Euphorbia flowers

And, after getting the camera switched back to regular old photo size mode, I noticed what I truly hope is the return of my favorite tulips ever. Looking back at that earlier post, I can see that I had them in three spots, and here I only saw one clump coming up. I will just have to be patient, maybe they will all return for another show-offy time in the early spring garden.

First tulips on the rise

Which plant’s return to glory are you most anticipating this spring?

 

A Few More Late Winter Bloomers January 22, 2010

Filed under: my garden,winter — greenwalks @ 8:16 pm
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Laid low by a horrendous cold, I have been unable to enjoy the warm temperatures and great gardening weather that nature offered Seattle this week. Even with the unseasonable rise in the mercury (on target to be the warmest January on record here, apparently), the plants seem to be pretty much on schedule.

Many of us want spring to come earlier than is does, but now that it seems to have, I am finding myself having missed winter a bit. Yes, I said I could deal with no snow at all after last year’s giant endless heaps of it, but not one flake? One pretty, quick-melting dusting would have been nice.

I was going to entitle this post “Signs of Spring” but really, these flowers reliably bloom in late winter. They allow us to look ahead to warmer, sunnier times even if, in a typical year (is there such a thing anymore??), that is still a ways off.

This Hellebore was a new addition last spring, I got two of them and now wish I’d sprung for more. Maybe I’ll go look for some purple ones next week as a present to myself for getting over this annoying cold.

Helleborus ‘Walhelivor’ Ivory Prince

Helleborus 'Walhelivor' Ivory Prince

First crocus! Not the most exciting variety, but I always love to see the first and this one won the race this year. I noticed some little purple species crocus the other day but didn’t have my camera handy and haven’t been outdoors in a few days! Hope to remedy that tomorrow.

First crocus of 2010

I never seem to succeed much with snowdrops, no idea why. Do they require something special? I’m pretty sure I put a bunch of them in this spot, and only two came up so far. Hm. Thoughts? I’m horrible about keeping track of bulb names despite good intentions, but I think these are Galanthus elwesii (Giant Snowdrop). I love that little upside-down heart.

Galanthus elwesii (Giant Snowdrop)

Sweet-smelling pink blooms of Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ are a winter stalwart. This plant has a rather ungainly habit but can take pruning and I think it’s worth having for the unusual combo of pink flowers and delightful scent in the dead of winter.

Viburnum X bodnantense 'Dawn'

Are you ready for spring now, whatever the calendar says?

 

Raised Bed Cover and a Couple of Crows January 11, 2010

The uncharacteristically deep and long freeze Seattle endured in December subjected winter veggie gardens to a real beating. Many unprotected plants, including some that were hurriedly swaddled in floating row cover, did not survive. Even some carefully shielded by a pro gardener under the warming embrace of a hoop house just couldn’t hack it after days in the 20sF or lower. This was one mean frost!

That’s why, when I saw this plastic tent-like structure in a parking strip recently, I wondered if its contents had made it through okay.

Hoop house for winter greens

Looks like it might be a pretty easy DIY project, just a few lengths of PVC and some heavy-duty plastic. I wonder if the low and compact shape, as compared with a hoop house, trapped warm air inside more effectively and helped to keep things alive? The lettuce seems to have survived:

Lettuce through hoop house cover

Are the crows just decorative or do they deter potential pilferers? I took them as a warning and didn’t poke my camera inside for a closer look.

Crow guards for raised bed

Later, some real corvids were spotted on a house’s rooftop. They like to look in rain gutters for tasty tidbits.

Crows on roof

 

Winter’s Late Arrival December 10, 2009

Filed under: my garden,Seattle,winter — greenwalks @ 12:52 pm
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Seattle’s fall was warm and wet, with way more rain in the month of November than is normal. I am trying to wrap my head around winter now that it is here for real, and although I should have known it was coming, I didn’t really get the garden ready.

So, new phormium and fig, rosemary and raspberries, welcome to the place where you are probably going to have to learn to live with your own resources and no more, or you will not be survivors. I will be sorry to see any of you go, but I’m just not together enough to get little houses and wraps and other coddlings ready for you at the exact right time. I will have to rely a bit on hope that you are going to be okay with some dips into the 20s and go with that. Well, okay, the teens. It was 14 on our side porch this morning!?! We don’t get that a lot, or at least we didn’t used to. Now maybe it’s the new norm.

Before the really bad cold set in (you know it’s cold when your relatives in Massachusetts are cracking up that it’s warmer there than here!), we had one really great foggy morning. It was so thick, we could barely see across the back garden or across the street. I didn’t think to try a photo until it was partly burned off, but still enjoyed the view of the neighbor’s plum tree hovering in the mist.

Plum tree in winter fog

After that, the mercury plunged and hasn’t really been up much above freezing for almost a week, at least at our place. We are on a little hill and it seems to bring the temp down a few notches vs. what the forecast says. The birdbath froze and has yet to thaw out:

Frozen birdbath in half light

I guess candied sage is probably not something I’d eat, but frosted with ice, it did remind me of something sugar-encrusted:

Frosted sage

There are plenty of plants I don’t have to worry about at all, who in fact seem to be happier the colder it gets!

The first blossom appeared on my Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ last week. The flowers do tend to get frost burn sometimes so I hope it waits to put out more blooms until a little later.

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' - first blossom

I dug up a huge, mature Sarcococca confusa in the summer, it was turning yellow from too much sunlight. I put it in a big empty mulch bag and dragged it over into the shade, and completely forgot about it. Now it’s putting out its shiny black (poisonous!) berries and soon will do the super-scented flower thing. Anyone in/near Seattle want to take this one home for some TLC in a shady spot? Please leave me a comment or email me at greenwalksblog@yahoo.com. It’s a great plant, but I just don’t have the right place for it (a garden with no shade – you’d think I wouldn’t complain but there are definitely some plants that I’d like but are off the list because they’d get burned to a crisp!)

Sarcococca berries in late November

The red-twig dogwood dropped a lot of leaves this summer in the super hot spell (105F, I’m still not done moaning about it yet) but seems to have survived. I am working up the nerve to pollard the heck out of it this year, on the recommendation of a few experts. Having decried similar pruning efforts I’ve seen elsewhere, I am hesitant about giving mine such a severe “haircut” but have heard it will produce more new (i.e. red) twigs and then I’ll be happy. Anyone with good/bad experiences on this score to share?

Red-twig dogwood in winter

What about you – did you get your garden all ready for winter? Or, like me, are you going to have to wait and see what managed to survive on its own?