Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Blossom Time March 30, 2009

Spring in Seattle means many things – rain of course, more cyclists on the city’s bike paths, a plethora of flower bulbs adding color to the landscape and, my favorite of all, blossom time for the city’s multitude of flowering trees.

It seems like the first to bloom are normally the ornamental plums, but due to the longer and colder than usual winter, this year everything’s getting going at the same time. Plums, cherries and apples all seem to be bursting into bloom at once, so maybe the usually-later ones are playing catch-up with the slowpokes.

I pass this particular tree many times a week, and had always marveled at its odd shape. It’s a small flowering cherry currently covered with ginormous blossoms. I don’t think it’s been well cared for in a while, since it has a lot of suckers (all flowering!) near the base. But even the strangest pruning can almost be redeemed by masses of fragrant blooms. I wish I could post these in Smell-O-Vision!

Flowering cherry

The Prius has become the car of Seattle (replacing the Volvo 240 – what can I say, I’m behind the times, I still have one of those but no hybrid yet), so I left it in the shot to epitomize this part of the world in spring – a parking strip flowering tree and a PC vehicle. What could be more Seattle? I guess I could have posed someone there with an REI fleece vest on, holding a latte. That might have been a bit too much, though.

Cherry tree & black Prius, how Seattle

What most signifies spring to you?

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Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day January 2009 January 15, 2009

This is my first time participating in GBBD, hosted by Carol of the wonderful May Dreams Gardens blog. I am a bit late to the party, but hope I can still join in.

January is not the finest month for showing off flowers in many climates, but most of us are lucky enough to have at least something nice to look at despite the winter blahs.

For me, January is always brightened by the arrival of my witch hazel’s flowers. I didn’t plant this tree (or is it a shrub? does anyone know how to tell the difference??), but it is the best thing I inherited from the previous gardener here. It is situated right outside our dining room window and gives me so much joy throughout the year with its multi-season interest.

Many witch hazels have cheery yellow flower tendrils, but mine are a deep orange, which I think I am very lucky to have. I couldn’t decide which photo to use, so I am including a few.

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I look forward to seeing what others have found peeking out from under or floating above the dead leaves and snow today! And it’s always fun to see what the warmer-climate folks have going on too – it gives me a little hit of much-needed mid-winter warmth.

 

Summer in Winter December 8, 2008

Our comparatively mild fall and early winter here in Seattle has produced what seems like an especially long blooming season for many of our flowering plants. I should keep better records so that it’s not just speculation, but to me it seems strange to have certain things still putting out flowers here in the second week of December.

Even though I’ve added a few evergreen perennials to the parking strip, it still ought to be a comparative moonscape by now. But lo and behold, look what I found out there yesterday:

The ‘Pink Panda’ strawberries are still putting out flowers.

Pink Panda strawberries in December

Pineapple sage is a late-season bloomer, but I don’t recall it hanging in there quite so long. I’m sure the hummingbirds don’t mind!

Pineapple sage in December

The golden variety is still chugging along too.

Golden pineapple sage in December

This one really shocked me:

December Nasturtium?!!

I didn’t think it was possible to have nasturtiums here in December! And they’re even putting out babies!?! (At the right of theĀ  photo below, next to my slowly-growing mesclun seedlings.)

Mesclun and volunteer nasturtiums in December?!

There’s exactly one heroic cosmos and aster left each, a little worse for wear but still going.

December Cosmos!?!

Late-season asters

And, from the upper level garden, just like Raquel over at Perennial Garden Lover, I have one very last rose. My plants were inherited and are not disease-resistant, so they may get dug up next year since I am never going to spray. But I do appreciate the last vestige of summer that this rose provided, and I have made sure to look at it every day in appreciation.

Last Rose

What about you, got anything blooming unseasonably late this year?

 

Cherry Trees in Planter Boxes December 6, 2008

Walking around my neighborhood the other week, I saw these relatively mature ornamental cherry trees in the parking strip.

Cherry tree planter boxes

I was curious about the planter boxes, which are a bit weathered and coming apart at some of the corners. I imagine the intention was to help the trees get a good initial start in an area where soil compaction is usually high. There is nothing (at least currently) planted underneath, so that doesn’t seem to have been the plan.

The trees, bare of their leaves, had been recently mulched and seemed to be tucked in snugly for their winter nap. Some of the claims to fame for mulching include insulation, nutrient supply, weed control, water conservation and disease suppression (per Linda Chalker-Scott’s “The Informed Gardener.”)

Cherry tree planter box with mulch

When mulching trees, I have read that it’s a good idea to keep the mulch away from the root crown. What do you think, did this gardener do it correctly or is it too close to the crown? I have to admit in advance that I don’t know the answer! Do you mulch your trees? If so, what material do you use? How have they fared?

 

Bulb Post, Part III November 14, 2008

Yesterday’s post probably had some of you calling my sanity into question. I won’t argue with you there, I did feel sort of like a madwoman cooking up that hideous concoction to squirrel-proof my bulb plantings… but it was fun. And it didn’t even smell that bad! Just like salsa soup or something.

So, after I was done loading up (and half-melting) the spray bottle, it was time to head out to the parking strip and put those babies in the ground! Another thing preventing me from doing so had been the weather, but I took the first sunny moment I had time and went for it. Bulb planting always takes longer than I think it will, so I had to allow for a few hours’ work, counting the potion-brewing.

La la la, line ’em up on the back porch and see what I got, because I always forget between when I buy them and when the poor things actually get planted.

Bulbs to plant

I lost the full list, but this is some of what I scribbled onto a now-muddy piece of paper when I was out there, so I could remember locations:

– Narcissus ‘Scarlet Royal’ (yellow with large orange cups)
– Narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ (white/orange double-flowering)
– Tulip ‘Fashion’ (rose with purple veins – Kaufmaniana)
– Tulip ‘Mona Lisa’ (yellow feathered with raspberry)
– Tulip ‘Palestrina’ (salmon with green feathering)

Oh man, I know there was a lot else. Some things that ended up in the upper garden include

– Muscari ‘Blue mixture’
– Narcissus ‘Little Gem’
– Bellevalia paradoxa (never grown this before, related to muscari)
– several varieties of species tulips – maybe I’ll find my other smudgy paper before spring and will update this if so… sorry!

My hands were too muddy to take pictures of the bulbs going into their new homes, but I did try to put them at the right depths, at least as well as memory served. I had thought I had some bulb fertilizer in the garage but it wasn’t where I expected it to be so I probably used it up last year. So, they’ll have to get what they can from my semi-poor soil and I hope it’s enough! This is definitely not a guide for how to give your bulbs the best start…

After they were all planted, it was time to squirrel-proof up a storm! I sprayed my goofy concoction over the planting site (these next pics are from the upper garden, under the witch hazel), sprinkled a little paprika on for good measure (word on the street is that they don’t like the smell of that either),

Paprika sprinkle on bulb zone

and now my garden smells like Hungarian goulash!

Just to be triple-sure, I covered up each site with some witch hazel or plum leaves. I hope the various methods didn’t cancel each other out, that would be so typical of my haphazard approach to gardening. I made sure a little paprika was sticking out past the leaves.

All covered up and protected

Thanks to the Arboretum volunteers for packing the bulbs in compostable paper bags, no plastic anywhere to be found. They all went straight into the yard waste toter.

Bulb bags in the yard waste

Now the waiting begins. I’ve been out once so far to “refresh” the spray, but doubt I’ll get to it more than maybe once or twice again. I can’t see going out there all winter, that’s just not my kind of gardening (the lazy kind!). So far so good, with nary a paw mark upon any of the leaf piles. Hm, I probably just jinxed it all. Damn.

So, Dr. Destructo, the gauntlet is tossed. Yeah buddy, I’m talkin’ to YOU.

Nemesis squirrel, Dr. Destructo

 

Is It Too Late to Talk About Bulbs? November 12, 2008

Every year, I attend the University of Washington Arboretum’s annual bulb and plant sale madness. I usually try to go at the beginning of the first day, which is a total insane crush, elbows flying everywhere to get to that almost-black tulip or unusual fritillary variety.

This year, they added an extra day, Monday, after the weekend rush. I figured the selection would be a little less but that it would be made up for by the lack of patrons. I’m just not up for crowds this year. I was right on both counts – fewer choices, but almost no people! I could actually see the descriptions for a change and didn’t have to say “excuse me” even once!

Bulb sale

I usually go in armed with a list of my hoped-for finds, but this time I just scanned their PDF and figured I’d get what struck me at the sale. That’s always a recipe for over-buying, at least for me, but oh well. Since I hadn’t been to any of the big fall plant sales, I hoped to do some perennial and groundcover shopping too, since they usually have a great selection at this event. Alas, they had neglected to post on their web site that the plant vendors were Saturday/Sunday only. Here’s what I had to choose from:

Plant sale slim pickings

Uh, yeah. Not exactly the selection I was hoping for. But then I saw some happy-looking gals walking past with flats full of plants. I shamelessly pounced on them and asked where they had gotten their finds. They pointed me toward a part of the arboretum that I had forgotten about:

UW Arboretum donated plants sign

Oh, yeah! Probably not too much that’s really unusual here, but lots to choose from, raised with love and care, and donated to the organization by local gardeners. I thought about Megan over at nestmaker when I saw this baby Katsura tree, which she has been jonesing for. I think it was 11 bucks.

Mini katsura tree

I ended up with a couple of cute little drought-tolerant plants for the parking strip – sedums (oreganum, the small one at bottom right in the photo below, and multiceps at top right), sempervivum (‘Stansfieldii’), and a variegated semi-evergreen carex I’d admired in others’ gardens, Carex morowii ‘Ice Dance.’

Bulb sale bonus plants

Oh, but this post was supposed to be about bulbs, right? Here was my haul:

2008 bulb haul

Somewhere, there is a piece of paper with all of the varieties listed. Can I find it at the moment? Of course not! But suffice to say that I did spend over $100 and I didn’t get them in the ground right away. Same old story.

In the next week, I hope to put up another post about planting the bulbs, and about my attempt to protect them from Dr. Destructo, the nefarious squirrel who likes to mess with things I love in the garden.

Are your spring-flowering bulbs all tucked in safely for their winter naps? If not, it’s okay to admit it here – I will not judge!

 

Tangerine Sage October 10, 2008

I fell in love with pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) the moment I first saw, or rather, smelled it years ago. The freshness of the green leaves and brightness of its red flowers, which draw in hummingbirds from late summer well into fall, are really only secondary to its chief attraction for me – its tangy, fruity scent. While some that I’ve grown have had to be replaced (in zone eight) after a particularly cold season, many have over-wintered and I’m happy for them as long as they last.

Tangerine sage, a similar variety, smells just ever so slightly of its namesake, although to be honest it’s still a bit pineapple-y. Its leaves are more rounded than the typical S. elegans pointed ones. I have a golden pineapple sage growing in my parking strip, but the tangerine is struggling along next to the cedar tree up by the house, which is a spot where many a plant has met its end due to intense root competition:

Tangerine sage

Even if my climate required it to be an annual, I’d still grow this cutie. Its leaves and flowers are edible and I sometimes put them in salads or snip them as a garnish for goat cheese. There’s almost no other smell in my garden that gives me such a good feeling when I give it a sniff on my way past.