Gardening where the sidewalk ends

On the Proper Use of Daisies July 19, 2010

Filed under: flora,summer — greenwalks @ 9:52 am
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A parking strip garden in the Meadowbrook neighborhood of Seattle showed off some great possibilities for that somewhat prosaic and often weedy member of the plant kingdom, the daisy.

I have these in my own garden, in clumps and singles, mostly I think as a self-sower that came over from the neighbors’ to the north. (After having mis-named them twice, I now think they are the Shasta daisy hybridized by Luther Burbank – see what you think, more info here.) I like them okay but they would probably be better if I paired them intelligently with other plants, as this gardener has.

Picking up the daisy center with the bright lemon flowers and bronze foliage of Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’? Brilliant.

Daisies and Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker' (?)

(I am guessing on that plant ID – it is a form of loosestrife so I would need to do more research before planting it myself, as that name sends chills down my spine, invasive-weed-wise. Anyone know if this one is safe?)

Letting them snake in a line through iris foliage and hot pink lychnis? Genius.

English daisy 'snake'

But my favorite – achieving the ultimate country-in-the-city look of a tall meadow while simultaneously covering up the mailbox post: divine!

Mailboxes and daisies

(Thanks to Grace for pointing out my inept plant ID, which I have since changed! Grace knows all!)



A Garden Valentine February 14, 2010

Filed under: flora — greenwalks @ 8:46 am
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Hope you give and get some love today, whether it’s between you and a sweetie, family, kids, pets, and/or plants! Here is my valentine to you.

The neighbor’s pink camellia blossoms are already emerging. Seems early but maybe I’m just paranoid at this point.

Pink camellia

Coral-bark maple seen in a nearby parking strip, maybe a new planting since I didn’t notice it until recently.

Coral-bark maple in parking strip

It’s violet time!

First violets

Ribes (flowering currant) species of unknown name, planted in a rockery (well, a stumpery actually, since the beds are rimmed with big tree sections) near my house.

Flowering currant

Rained-on radicchio in my front veggie patch. Doesn’t it look like a raw red heart?

Heart-like radicchio

And, last but not least, this emerging tulip foliage with its red edges delicately rimmed in dewdrops looked just like the perfect Valentine heart to me.

Tulip "heart" outlined in dewdrops

Hope you have a good Valentine’s day, however you celebrate it (or don’t)!


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.


The Race to Spring is ON! January 31, 2010

Filed under: bulbs,my garden — greenwalks @ 10:54 pm
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Crocus thinking about blooming


Crocus tommasinianus starting to open


Crocus tommasinianus all the way open

Crocus tommasinianus over the course of about a week. I don’t remember having planted this many, so maybe they are naturalizing. That would be nice, especially if I would remember to divide and move them around a bit for even greater enjoyment next 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?


GBBD January 15, 2010 January 14, 2010

Filed under: flora,Garden Bloggers Bloom Day — greenwalks @ 10:55 pm
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Twenty-ten? Two thousand ten? How are you getting your head around this year so far? I can’t even decide how to pronounce it. So much for starting the year with the courage of my convictions!

In the garden at this time of year in Seattle, there is a lot that could be blooming. We are pretty fortunate in our weather, even if it comes with a lot of gray skies and precipitation, since it keeps things looking fairly green and fresh all winter if we have been smart or lucky enough to have put in the right plants for interest during this season.

Despite vague thoughts about adding plants that would look good at this time of year, it’s just the same old standbys here, most of which were here when we arrived. Whoever designed this landscape definitely had this time of year in mind, since there’s much more going on now than I would have thought to include.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’). I will never get tired of this tree. Or is it a shrub? I take millions of pictures of it, in nearly every season, and look at it from my seat at the family table every day of the year. I even like it when its branches are bare and providing snacks for squirrels. It’s a great tree for the small garden and provides many seasons of spectacular interest.

Witch hazel 'Jelena' flowers

Sweet box (Sarcococca confusa) – smells so heavenly, I wish I could put a scent in a blog post! Glossy green leaves year-round, cute black berries in winter, happy in poor soil and part to full shade. Used to take this one for granted but now I couldn’t do without it. (Tangled mess in the background is one of the two red-twig dogwoods that desperately need some decisive and drastic pruning, soon!)

Sarcococca ruscifolia blooms on January 14

Rosemary – Despite suffering two back-to-back winters with brutal freezes, and looking pretty sad all summer, this very mature and large upright rosemary (maybe ‘Tuscan Blue’?) seems to be okay now (although you can see some ‘frostbite’ on the needle tips). Wish I could say the same for my giant hedge of prostrate rosemary, now mostly dead and gone. The Anna’s Hummingbirds that overwinter here often stop by for a sip, so I hope to keep this big plant going a while longer. Plus, fresh rosemary is about my favorite smell in the world.

Rosemary flowers in January

Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)?? Not sure of my ID on this one, but as you can see the aphids love it. It has a fairly scraggly habit but screens our bedroom window from the neighbors while letting light in so I have let it stay. Might need to figure out what to do about the critters, since this seems pretty early for them to be at work. Flowers are small but fragrant. Yes, there was just the one when I looked, but I hope more will be along soon!

Winter honeysuckle flower and aphid damage

Indoors, a vase of small white Jewel orchid blossoms my mom gave me, from a plant that has been in my childhood bedroom for at least two decades, maybe more. An impressively long-lived specimen and most un-fussy for an orchid, I believe!

Little white orchid flowers in clear vase

And now, on to things that are not technically blooms but still provide interest and excitement for my eye at this time of year.

Heather (the blooms are really dead flowers from last summer, I just realized, but they look like flowers!) How does that rhyme go? Heath like leaf and heather like a feather? I can never keep these two straight, and not all of the ones I inherited here have survived poor conditions but I am coming to appreciate the ones that have as pretty, hardy evergreens.

Spent heather blooms in winter

Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) These red berries persist for months on end and the new foliage comes in with a reddish purple tinge that is just so lovely. Another plant I used to consider humdrum but now truly enjoy.

Nandina domestica berries in January

Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) – The contorted filbert’s catkins are in full view at the moment, which does make the tree look a little busy with all the curly branches as well.

Contorted filbert (Harry Lauder's Walking Stick) catkins

Yellow twig dogwood, almost-blooming viburnum and more Sarcococca – I cut a few twigs of this dogwood for a friend today, and only then noticed that some of the yellow twigs not at eye level have red tinges. So, I am wondering if this could be a very out-of-control Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, which has both yellow and red coloring in winter. Hm, must investigate what that one’s leaves look like in summer, since most searches just turn up the striking but bare winter branches. Another candidate for a drastic pruning job, since the twig color is reportedly most intense in new growth.

Viburnum, sarcococca and yellow-twig dogwood

I’ve let too much time pass without participating in the monthly festival of flowering fun that is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, hosted as always by the lovely and talented Carol of May Dreams Gardens. Picking January to jump back in seems a little absurd, but so be it. I’m grateful for these spots of brightness that will carry the garden forward until spring has sprung!


Still Shining November 10, 2009

This is one for the flower-lovers (you know who you are, and aren’t).

A year or so ago, a simple raised bed appeared in the parking strip a few blocks from my house. Good soil went in, things were planted, I didn’t go past for a while, but when I was out for a walk the other day, we’re talking almost-mid-November here, I almost fell over when I saw this.

Parking Strip Flower Explosion

What are they feeding those things? The good stuff, obviously.

My cosmos are long gone, at least I think they are – maybe I should look again! These ones are not only still blooming, they are forming new buds even as the evening temps dip toward freezing.

Cosmos and Zinnias

Massive orange dahlias abound:

Lion-ish Orange Dahlia

Guess I’m not the only one who plants stuff and forgets what it’s called (this was attached to one of the massive dahlia stalks):

Dahlia Tag

I loved this tattered but still-glowing zinnia, its charms a bit faded but still cheerful on a cold fall day:

Aging Zinnia

My sunflowers are long gone too, and yet here are these, still standing proud and topping out at probably 11 ft. How they survived the previous night’s wind storm, I have no idea.

Towering Sunflowers in Mid-November

Well, mostly survived:

Broken-necked Sunflower

This gardener chose not to rip up the entire parking strip, just a small patch of sod for the raised bed. But man, you can fit a lot of loveliness in a small space if you get it right. I can’t wait to see what they get up to next year!

Just one house over, strange things are growing in the lawn…

Skeleton in the grass


Why I Keep the Asters October 28, 2009

Filed under: bugs,fall,flora — greenwalks @ 10:06 am
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The asters that reseed vigorously in my parking strip garden are tall, leggy, often in the wrong place and prone to rust late in the season. But I keep them anyway. Do you know why?

Asters in late September

Here’s another look:

Bee on aster blossom

Yes, for the bees. Most of the blossoms are gone by now (these photos were taken back in late September), but since there aren’t many flowers on the street still blooming at that time of year, I like giving my buzzing friends a last little taste of summer before it’s time to close up the honey shop for the year.

Do you have any plants you keep around mostly for the wildlife to enjoy?


Alley Flowers July 20, 2009

Filed under: neighborhood gardens — greenwalks @ 9:21 am
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The back alley is our usual access point for biking or walking up to the local school playground for some running-off-energy time for my daughter. On the way lately, we have seen more than the usual bindweed and overgrown honeysuckle that usually are visible.

This clematis (Jackmanii? or something similar) was putting on a big show the other week.  I just planted a related vine on a small metal trellis, and now I wonder if I’m going to have to rethink the structure if it’s ever going to get this big (6 feet high at least):

Purple clematis (Jackmanii?)

These pink campanula were so showy, it’s too bad they only lasted a few days. I enjoyed them a lot while they were around. Not sure of the variety, maybe C. medium, ‘Bells of Holland’? They are so sweet and cottage-gardeny, they really evoke England to me. Oh, you can see some bindweed crawling up to strangle the campanula, I think these neighbors don’t know what a bane it is. Or maybe they do and have given up, who can blame them?

Pink campanulas

In my part of the alley, I have a neglected but seemingly carefree ceanothus which has now reverted to its boring phase (the 50 weeks of the year without blue bee-magnet fragrant blooms), one struggling Spanish lavender, some osmanthus that always scrapes the car when I drive by it, and a bunch of scary weeds. I will spare you a photo here.

Do you have a back alley? If so, what’s growing in it? Is it the last spot you think of when deciding to work on or plant anything in your garden? It is for me, for sure, but I do appreciate when a little beauty creeps over the fence or is otherwise out there for we back-alley travelers to enjoy.


Bee-autiful Poppies June 10, 2009

Filed under: bugs,flora,my garden — greenwalks @ 5:26 pm
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I have a lot of poppies in my garden at the moment, all bright (loud, really) colors, all about to have a bunch of interesting seed heads but also floppy, dried-out foliage. Many will get yanked to make room for summer annuals, a few more perennials that need to be liberated from their pots, and my growing herb collection.

While they last, though, the poppies not only put on a riotous visual show but also get the bees going nearly insane with delight. I am easily distracted from garden tasks (and they are legion at the moment, including boring endless watering since we have had no appreciable rain since mid-May – what is this, California?!) and love to watch and listen to them wander around the garden and roll around in the pollen. Here is one in the big showy red poppy right outside our front windows:

Bee in poppy

I know we are supposed to be worried about colony collapse, but I have seen a ton of honeybees this spring so maybe things are not so bad as they have been? Anyone know?

I had to hold onto this smaller poppy to take the photo, since the bee was making it wave around so much. Darker bee, maybe a mason bee? I don’t have bee houses so whoever comes to visit, they are making their own homes and hives.

Bee in orange poppy

Lastly, I don’t know quite how they got into my garden, but late spring and early summer would not feel complete for me at this point without my parking strip full of California poppies. I mention them a lot because they just make me so dang happy. The bees agree on this one too – this time it’s a bumblebee.

Bee on California poppy

We just watched the latest Mike Leigh film on DVD, “Happy-Go-Lucky.” I thought it would maybe be annoying, as his work sometimes can be, but it was one of the better movies I’ve seen in a while (click here to see the trailer). A very nuanced take on the daily life of someone who either by nature or choice is just a truly compassionate, funny, joyful person. Her name – oh, did you need to ask? Poppy!