Greenwalks

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

 

A Visit to Jordan’s Garden (Part I) May 3, 2010

One of the best things about our little garden bloggers’ group, SAGBUTT, is when new people stumble upon our meeting notices and decide to come and join us. Such was the case back in late March when a few of us ventured out in the rain to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens near Seattle for some time to chat and amble around between showers.

Jordan Jackson, owner of the Metropolitan Gardens garden design business, has been blogging about his garden and design services for a few years at Gardening in Cascadia and recently discovered some new ways of connecting with fellow gardeners and plant enthusiasts, such as Blotanical and SAGBUTT. His vast knowledge of botanical names alone is a great reason to check out his site, but his photos and showcasing of the variety of native and exotic ornamentals, especially perennials, are also well worth the clicks.

At our BBG visit, Jordan mentioned that he would be having an open garden in the near future, and invited us to come on out. His home garden, on a hillside overlooking Lake Washington in Seatle’s historic Mt. Baker neighborhood, issued a siren call that I could not resist.

Usually, I do not attempt to drag my 6 yr. old along on garden visits, especially those where I’d like to ask questions and not have to be on the alert for the potential trampling of precious plants. But since the other blogger in the family was out of town, it was bring her along or not go at all, so I chose to go for it.

As we pulled up to the curb, a small sign on the steep slope’s retaining wall announced the open garden hours, but first I had to check out the sidewalk garden. This parking strip is much narrower than mine, but is planted with one of the more unusual selections of tough but attractive plants I’ve seen in a long while.

Jordan's parking strip garden

Yes, that’s Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ out there for all to enjoy – here’s a close-up of the delicate flowers:

Ribes sanguineum 'White Icicle'

Another flowering currant, Ribes X gordonianum, keeps coming up lately – I think it’s going on my wish list as of right now:

Ribes x gordonianum

Not every day do you just see one of these on the street (Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’):

Cupressus arizonica 'Blue Ice'  in parking strip

Did you know that many species of Bottlebrush (Callestemon) are cold hardy in the Pacific Northwest? I didn’t! Thanks to Jordan, I now do. Here is a seedhead from last year’s blooming of Callistemon rigidus:

Callistemon rigidus  seedhead

Across from the parking strip is a semi-casual, partly shaded narrow strip of charming low-growers. Lamium and Primula kisoana:

Lamium and primula kisoana combo

My new favorite spring ephemeral, Erythronium oreganum, whose name I did not know until Jordan provided it and helped me stick it in my brain by repeating it patiently until I got it:

Erythronium oregonum

There was probably a lot more down there of note, but I knew the clock was ticking on my daughter’s willingness to participate so we needed to head up the stairs. Maybe I can convince Jordan to do a post on his street garden one of these days, hint hint.

Our virtual tour of the upper garden will have to wait for another day, but I will tell you that the visit was enjoyable, revelatory, educational, and one that I hope to repeat in following seasons to see what else is growing there. Thank you to Jordan for the invitation, kind hosting, and plant name help!

 

Plant Amnesty Free Event April 18, 2010

Filed under: shrubs,trees — greenwalks @ 10:02 pm
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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 Petals in Parking Strips March 4, 2010

Filed under: flora,trees — greenwalks @ 9:03 pm
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Does such a profusion of plums become prosaic? Or does it produce perfection? Peruse at your pleasure!

(This post is dedicated to Grace, who perennially pines for pink.)

Okay, enough with the alliteration. Seattle in early spring (yeah, I know it’s technically winter still, but it hasn’t felt like it in a long time so I’m going to go ahead and just call it spring. The plants and animals sure think it is!) offers an almost overwhelming spectacle – entire streets lined with wildly blooming ornamental plum trees. Apricots, cherries, magnolias, cornelian cherries, and many others abound as well, but the plums are ubiquitous and seemingly the earliest, so when they arrive it feels like spring is really here. The pinkness is impossible to ignore and hard not to be cheered by.

My neighborhood has gone nuts for these trees. Many have deep purple leaves so a long line of them can be a little blah in the summer. But oh, for these few weeks, they shine. I have been crossing my fingers for no lashing storms to hasten the petals to an early demise, and so far we’ve been lucky. Standing under some of these, neighbors have stopped to comment and enjoy the spectacle together.

So, without further ado, the reigning queens of the blossom ball, all from parking strips!

Plum trees abloom

Ephermeral plum blossoms

Venerable plum tree

Pink plum blossoms on pavers

Plum tree bloom explosion

Parking strip pinkness

Mini plum branch

Blue skies and pink plum flowers

Pink confetti in the grass

Pale pink plum blossoms with purple leaves beginning to emerge

 

February Gold February 24, 2010

No question about it, this has been the weirdest winter I can remember. Yes, I’m counting last year’s Snowpocalypse; this one is even odder. Spring came months earlier than usual this year – I’m confused, the trees are confused, the birds are confused. I just hope we get back to some semblance of normal next year or it’s going to start seeming like a pattern instead of a few anomalies strung together.

Anyone reading this from under a pile of snow on the roof is probably wondering what’s to complain about. Sunny days and 60 degrees in February? Well, it’s not typical, so it’s getting everything started sooner (including garden pests like aphids and popping weed, not to mention allergies!), which just seems wrong. I wonder things like, if the migratory hummingbirds come back and the flowers they are used to have all bloomed already, will they have enough to eat following their exhausting trip? If my roses leafed out too early and I didn’t cut them back until this week, will they still bloom? If the bumblebees are already out but it gets colder later, can they go back to sleep?

The upside of all of this, of course, is sun. Lovely, warming, spirit-lifting, unusually present sun. I can’t remember eating lunch outside at a cafe at this time of year before. Essential Baking was on my way home from an errand the other week and I couldn’t resist stopping in.

Essential Baking sign on sunny Seattle day

Their special soup was beet something, I can’t remember the other ingredients but it was heavenly, along with a salad of spring greens and some tasty flatbread. The sun made the soup look like was sparkling.

Sunny cafe lunch - outdoors in February!?!

The cafe has a nice little parking strip garden, with euphorbias and a cute, small witch hazel which was just glowing on this day.

Glowing witch hazel blossoms and euphorbia

Sunlit streetside euphorbia at Essential Baking

Some kind of eucalyptus (?) is planted in brick planters on the cafe side of the street. I liked the way the red-rimmed leaves softened the severity of the iron railing.

Eucalyptus leaves and iron railing

Outdoor dining in the dead of winter. What is this, California??

 

Orchidmania February 7, 2010

Filed under: flora,garden shows — greenwalks @ 4:05 pm
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You could see a certain look come over people’s faces the moment they saw Blooming Ecstasy, the orchid display garden at the NW Flower & Garden Show this week. It was a bit of a glazed look, mixed with longing, plus a little bit of disbelief and a small helping of madness. Even those like me who have never been bitten by the orchid bug were hard-pressed not to gasp over each succeeding marvel. The volunteers from the Northwest Orchid Society who staffed the show beamed proudly over their progeny, as many mental notes were made to look for these at the sale booths later on.

I will do my best with botanical names here, but I didn’t write any down and my photos didn’t show all of the tags. Please feel free to correct any you see here that are incorrect or un-named. (Note: if you are reading this via Blotanical and the images are getting cut off to the right, I apologize – if you click on this link, it should give you the full, wide versions. Thanks!)

This was the brightest orange flower in the entire garden show, I think. (Many of the tags included abbreviated names, maybe to save space.) This one was termed Epicat. ‘Butterfly Kisses’:

Epicat. 'Butterfly Kisses' orchid

Encyclia cochleata X lancifolium – they looked to me like skirts for the flower fairies:

Encyclia cochleata X lancifolium orchid

This one was a much deeper purple than my camera could register in the odd light. Still, it was one of my favorites so I wanted to include it here. The top part looks like a clematis, but then the bottom busts out with those crazy colors.

Mottled purple orchid

I loved the “Smell Me” tag on this one. Of course I had to obey. Undeniably sweet!

"Smell me" orchid

This foliage plant was almost as riveting as the orchids. Someone will surely know its name? Probably a common houseplant, again not one of my specialties.

Unknown tropical foliage

Hot hot hot pink:

Hot pink orchids

So delicately spiky:

Spiky orchids

Crazy stripes:

Striped orchids

Tiny cascades of flowers on Dendrochilum fragrans:

Dendrochilum fragrans orchid

I think this one’s tag said Paphiopedilum sukhakulii ‘Jeannette’ – maybe a type of Ladyslipper? Coming upon a patch of native Ladyslipper orchids in the wild is one of my most treasured hiking moments.

Paphiopedilum sukhakulii "Jeannette' orchid

Guess Jay Leno decided to escape from the spotlight in LA and come on up to the garden show:

Ladyslipper orchid

What about you, have you succumbed to Orchidmania?

 

The “It” Trees of the Garden Show February 4, 2010

Filed under: garden shows,trees — greenwalks @ 10:19 pm
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I took so many pictures at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show today, I’m not sure where to start. I’ll try to do a few posts, grouping some of my favorites thematically. Since I’ve been thinking and posting a lot about trees lately, that seems as good a place to start as any.

Every year at the show, there seem to be a few plants that repeat in many of the show gardens. Is it like the Paris or Milan high-fashion collections, where one year everyone seems to have agreed on miniskirts and the next on military coats? I have no experience in the world of show garden design, so it is a mystery to me how certain things seem to flow in common through many of the designers’ final products.

I always feel sorry for these trees, some of them pretty mature, ripped out of their natural habitats and shoved into some sawdust in an an artificial indoor landscape so that a few (thousand) of us can ooh and ah over them over a four-day period. What happens to them afterward? Are they consigned to the compost heap? I hope not! Maybe they are specially cared for and replanted in some special spot, their moment in the spotlight over but a long and happy life ahead.

This year, these were the trees that seemed to be everywhere, the stars of the show. How many will end up being planted in attendees’ gardens, I wonder?

River birch, the hands-down winner for unusually beautiful bark

River birch bark

Witch hazel, here hovering over black mondo grass

Witch hazel and black mondo grass

Contorted filbert – this one was pruned into an “up-do”

Contorted filbert

Tree fern – okay, technically not a tree, but they were all over the place! Hard to grow in the Pacific Northwest, even with a lot of wrapping and care, from what I’ve heard.

Tree fern

Magnolia grandiflora, this one was the cultivar ‘Southern Charm’

Magnolia grandiflora 'Southern Charm'

Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ – this one really surprised me, showing up as it did in at least three gardens that I saw. It is a rare and expensive tree (for more about it, see this post from last year’s Garden show), and I bet it’s going on a lot of people’s wish lists after this week.

Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph'

A few other trees stood out for their uniqueness instead of their ubiquity:

Asian pear

Asian pear

Weeping Norway spruce (known in my family as the Snuffleupagus Tree)

Weeping Norway spruce

Unknown Japanese maple

Japanese maple

Cypressus macrocarpa ‘Saligna aurea’ had amazing, filigreed golden tendrils

Cypressus macrocarpa 'Saligna aurea'

Not all of the trees at the show were real:

Metal tree sculpture

Constructed tree "hideaway"

Weathered tree sculpture

Whimsical "tree" sculpture

BTW, we did get in to hear Fergus Garrett’s lecture on training the eye to make good plant combinations. Inspiring and well worth all the standing around and being herded like ruminants that was required to secure a seat.

More to come…

 

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
Tags: , , , , ,

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?