Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

no foolin’, it’s April

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

So let’s take a look at what’s been going on around here.

Opuntia ‘Bunny Ears’

This bunny is starting to grow some ears. See that little nubbin? I will be much more careful with this little guy than I was with his mom. He’ll get an outdoor vacation, but will come in come fall.

zinnia seedlings

Most of the seeds I started have yet to put in an appearance, but the zinnias show up in 5 or 6 days. Now that’s what I call encouragement.

Euphorbia ‘Fen’s Ruby’

A few of us showed up to help our pal Patricia dig plants. It wasn’t entirely a selfless act. I came home with a nice clump of Euphorbia ‘Fen’s Ruby’.

noid tree

And this tree with no name but scads of personality. The consensus was that it is a relative of the Monkey Puzzle Tree. Here’s the update from the always helpful AND knowledgeable Loree of Danger Garden fame: Cryptomeria japonica ‘Auricoriodes’. She supplied additional information, so check out her comment below if you’re interested.

wheelbarrow of transplants

March came through with several sun breaks surrounded by rainy days: perfect transplanting weather. I wrestled the wheelbarrow down into the woods, where I dug up several trilliums, salaal, vancouveria and a ribes to move into the cultivated part of the garden. Not that I have any illusions about my ability to compete with Mother Nature.


The Ribes pop up here and there of their own accord. This is an experiment to see if they take to transplanting.

Dryopteris a cristata ‘The King’ and two Polystichum setiferum

I thought I would try ferns in the wall pocket this year. These come from Cornell Farm, which is way ahead of most places in trotting out a full array of plants. The one at top is dryopteris ‘The King’ and the two below are Polystichum setiferum. The tag says ‘Alaskan’, but these are very different from the Alaskan fern I already have. Anybody know anything about that?

ghost leaves put to use

Remember the ghost leaves left behind by Acanthus sennii? I put some of them to use to adorn a birthday gift, with the addition of a dried Chinese lantern for good measure. Here’s hoping April gets all joking out of her system today and sends us a bumper crop of sunny days to do what we love.

reading at Drake’s 7 Dees

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Holy moly, I am so stoked to be doing a reading from BeBop Garden at Drake’s Seven Dees in Raleigh Hills. Their presence at the Yard, Garden and Patio Show last week was nothing short of inspirational. Their store at 5645 SW Scholls Ferry Road, PDX 97225 is well worth a visit. I was there to hear Ann, The Amateur Bot-ann-ist talk about starting seeds. It was a blustery day, but the rain beating on the greenhouse just added to the cozy atmosphere and they had all the goods on hand to go home and put Ann’s excellent advice right to work.

BeBop Garden cover

So if you already have one of my books, bring it for me to sign. I’ll also have books available. I’d love to see you there Saturday, March 8 at 3pm. If you can’t make it, here’s a promise: I will take pictures of the nursery and do a post to lure you to this delightful nursery on one of your next plant-seeking expeditions.


Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

on the deck

Everything still in clay pots made it onto the front deck so that the pots will live to see another season. Also in there are a few things in glazed pots that can stand the cold, but not the wet.

Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’

A few things, like Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’ made it into the ground, where poor Al looks a little lost and forlorn. He is destined to grow big, though…

Sekkan Sugi

so I envision him one day standing out against the dark background of the cedar trees in all his silvery glory, much like the golden Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan Sugi’, planted in ‘04.


I picked all of the dahlias that were in bloom, anticipating that they would turn to mush in the freeze.


Not so. These happy new blooms seem little worse for the cold temps.


I picked all of the Zinnias too. The remaining stems may not make it all the way to new blooms, but we shall see. In the meantime, our house is looking pretty festive.

sea oats and Hydrangeas

Not much continuity here, though, with summery dahlias and zinnias in one part of the house and the fall arrangement of Chasmantium latiflorium and dried ‘Limelight’ Hydrangeas with a few squashes in another.

indoor plants

Richard gets a little panicky when I start moving plants indoor, fearing that it will get claustrophobic.

tucked in a corner

So I left a few things out, incorporated others into existing pots and tucked things into corners here and there. We’re both happy with the results. I hope the plants will be.

one muhly bloom

Wandering around to assess what Jack Frost had wrought, I spotted one lonely little muhly bloom (if you look closely, you can see it against the dark background provided by Sami…she’s an unusually accommodating cat, um, occasionally).

healthiest muhly

It’s not even on the healthiest looking of the three plants I got from Scott of Rhone Street Gardens. I think I can expect a stunning display this time next year.

Kniphofia multiflora

Once again, the Kniphofia multiflora is racing against time.

Kniphofia buds

All of those little buds seem unfazed, so perhaps this year it will make it.

curled tip of Kniphofia

I love the way the tip of the blooming stalk curls over and almost echoes the silhouette of the weeping Sequioia behind it.

strange growth

Strange things are happening out by the compost bins. I’ll close with a plea to all of you knowledgeable observers of nature. Can anyone tell me what this is? I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t try to eat it.

tweaking time

Friday, October 25th, 2013

I just spent some time looking through a grab bag of photos. It’s a good time to take stock of what worked, what didn’t and what to do about it. As our friends across the pond might say, “jiggering”.

Buddha’s Hand cosmos

It’s hard to know what to expect when growing something new from seed. The dainty ‘Buddha’s Hand’ Cosmos are not the desired orange, but more golden.

Buddha’s Hand with Leonotis

They peek coquettishly through the base of Leonotis, also grown from seed. The Lion’s Tail grew to mammoth proportions, making it a poor choice for placement towards the front of this new bed.

Lion’s Tail with bronze fennel

It played nicely with the bronze fennel, but eclipsed the ‘Pretty Woman’ trying to assert herself at the bottom of the photo.

after the rain

When the rains came, they flopped, squashing all of those little cosmos. This bed is in for a major overhaul come spring. Most of the offenders are annuals, so no big deal. I chalk it up to “live and learn’.

Nicotiana langsdorfii

Another annual from seed, Nicotiana langsdorfii, performed admirably. It’s one of those see-through plants, with dangling acid-green flowers rising sporadically on tall stems from ground-level rosettes…and it doesn’t try to upstage ‘Pretty Woman’.

Phygelius ‘Devil’s Tears’

Nor does it obscure Phygelius ‘Devil’s Tears’ at the back of the bed.

Lion’s Tails in sun

A couple of the ‘Lion’s Tails’ placed in a sunnier location with less water grew to only three feet. Next year, I think I’ll try them along the fence line, where the conditions split the difference. I like them enough to keep trying.

grass in the dry berm

Back in July, the dry berm was being invaded by these annoying grasses.

grass roots

With the help of my trusty screwdriver, I dug deep to remove the roots (well on their way to reaching for China). Now the grasses are back. Maybe not as plentiful as before, but unless I do something they are sure to reestablish their foothold.
When I started this berm, I laid down thick layers of newspaper to smother the grass before piling on the soil mix. I loathe the idea of dismantling and starting from scratch, but a lifelong career of digging out grass roots is not too appealing either. Any suggestions?

Persicaria ‘Purple Shield’ roots

All roots are not created equal. The foliage of Persicaria ‘Purple Shield’ makes a wonderful filler for bouquets, all the while sprouting roots like crazy. Voila! More little purple shields coming up. Same story with the coleus to the right, but I’ll just replace those with new ones next year.

Heuchera ‘Sashay’

The most interesting feature of Heuchera ‘Sashay’ is the reddish color on the undersides of its leaves. Tucked away in the ground, who knew?

‘Sashay’ in hanging pot

No elevated walls around here to show it off to advantage, but a hanging pot is the next best thing. Once it recovers from transplant shock, I expect a nice glow from those leaves.

Gooseneck loosestrife in sun

Gooseneck loosestrife is famous for going crazy when it is happy, so I put a clump of it where it would get neither the shade nor abundant water it craves. True, it resists running amok, but it also comes off as somewhat anemic.

gooseneck loosestrife in shade

By contrast, in the woodland, the foliage is lush and deep green, showing off those cute little goose heads which I adore. Sometimes a little extra effort to keep things in bounds is well worth it.

monkey puzzle tree

My monkey puzzle tree started out as a mere twig. It is finally beginning to put on significant growth. At Cistus, they have several, and I was taken with the dense plantings crowding around them. Not crowding this close though. Come spring, I’m going to need to find a new spot for that wonderful Euphorbia ‘Fire Charm’. How about you? What needs tweaking now that the season is drawing to a close?

September’s split personality

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Hydrangea ‘Limelight’

We asked for rain, and it came down in buckets. Anything with big trusses, like this Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ was laid low.

Macleaya cordata

Some tall things, like the Macleaya cordata (plume poppy), met a similar fate.

Leonotis nepetifolia

Once standing proudly a good 8′ tall, Leonotis nepetifolia now crouches on the ground. Before I had a chance to get out there and stake them, the flowering tips began to bend upward to reach for the light. Note to self: next year, stake early and stake liberally (yeah, sure…like I’m about to do that).

Lion’s tail

See what I mean? At this point they would look mighty peculiar if I were to stake the bent stems.

Chasmantium latifolium

I actually did stake the Chasmantium latifolium because last year it dipped over into the pond. Live and learn: the stakes need to be taller, with at least two levels of bamboo poles strung between them.


Waterlogged zinnias were dead headed, the plants freshly tied up to existing stakes, and these little flower factories are already pumping out new product.

Hydrangea Preziosa
Hydrangea Preziosa

Hydrangea ‘Preziosa’ is turning many shades of dusky hues. Beaten down as it is by the rain, I needn’t hesitate to cut freely and hang the flower heads upside down to dry. I find all kinds of uses for them during the holidays.


The big mopheads fade to even more interesting colors.

Verbena bonariensis

I like the deep purple of the last throes of Verbena bonariensis, but most of them are finally flopping and must be cut back.

So the first week of September was soggy and it seemed that summer had ended with a flash of light and a clap of thunder. Hah! We are into the second week, characterized by temperatures in the 90’s. Our Texas friends laugh condescendingly, but we Oregonians (with a few notable exceptions) wilt and whine in such weather. I am circulating a petition for Indian summer: crisp, sunny days in the 70’s. Are you with me?

when is a bargain…not

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

NOID Deodora cedar

You may recall my excitement over the sale at Means, where we picked up this Deodora cedar for a mere $9.99. R is the tree planter in the family. When he came in from planting this, he was worried. The root ball, he said, was quite small, with evidence of some hacking off of large roots. Now this tree comes in dwarf, upright, towering, sprawling and probably several other varieties I don’t even know about. Often when we buy something from Means it takes some time to recover from transplant shock. If this is one that eventually reaches mammoth proportions, I would not be at all sorry for it to take its time.

fave tool for weeding

Nothing beats a hefty screwdriver as a weeding tool. You know how it is with tools: they keep wandering off. So…off to Home Depot for yet another replacement.


But did I stick to the tool department? Heck no! What’s a trip to Home Depot without a stroll through the garden center? I spotted these lush, healthy looking Agapanthus ‘Frederick St Park’ on sale for $2.98 (there’s two of them there).

rootbound Agapanthus

I had to cut them out of the nursery pots, and then cut away a lot of the roots wound around and around. This was not easy to do without losing a flowering stalk.

Agapanthus flower

Which I did, but waste not want not…it made a nice focal point in a little posy of sweet peas.

potted Agapanthus

All potted up, they continue to put on a show without missing a beat. I’ll move these onto the porch when cold weather returns. I’ve tried Agapanthus in the ground a couple of times and lost them. We shall see.

Cotinus coggyria ‘Golden Spirit’

Another Means purchase, the Cotinus coggyria ‘Golden Spirit’ in the back pot set us back all of two bucks. What do you think? Do these plants qualify as “bargains”, or have I been played for a sucker? My own thinking runs along these lines: even if every one of them were to conk out by the end of this growing season, I would feel like I’d gotten my money’s worth and then some.

Hi, July!

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Clematis armandii rebloom

Here’s a surprise! For the first time, Clematis armandii is putting forth a second flush of blooms…nothing like the clouds in late March, but welcome just the same.

Dranunculus vulgaris

I love this plant, Dranunculis vulgaris, a passalong from a firiend who called it the penis plant. I had it in deep shade, where it never bloomed. I moved divisions to several different locations. This one, in dappled shade, has shown me what it likes.

Dranunculus vulgaris, another view

Here it is from another angle. I like the spotted stems almost as much as the dramatic flowers. They say they stink, but I have detected no odor.

Fuchsia ‘Firecracker’

Here’s a case of nature coming up with a color combo that seems to defy common sense. I’m still not fully convinced, but I’ll give her a pass on this one.

Hypericon ‘Brigadoon’

You know those fake Christmas trees where the light comes out the end of plastic “needles”? That’s what the stamens of Hypericum ‘Brigadoon’ remind me of.

Lecesteria formosa

The dangling blossoms of Lecesteria formosa are just the introduction to a long season of interest. They will soon produce dark berries that dangle like ear bobs on an exotic dancer.

Persicaria ‘Purple Shield’

Tiny white flowers are just the frosting on the dynamic foliage of Persicaria ‘Purple Shield’.

Hydrangea ‘Preziosa’
I’ve heard Hydrangea ‘Preziosa’ referred to more than once as the best of the Hydrangeas. Those dark stems and flower heads that range from creamy white to rusty bronze tones would seem to substantiate that claim.

Hydrangea ‘Preziosa’ with companions

Here she is paired with Angelica from Ryan at a plant swap last year. I started with one plant of the Prez and found it easy to reproduce by layering, so I now have several.


Privet is one of those shrubs that R planted as screening material. I held it in pretty low regard until it produced these lacy buds. It will fall back out of favor once they burst into boring bloom.

Rogersia ‘Bronze Peacock’

The leaves of Rogersia ‘Bronze Peacock’ turn green as they mature, but new ones continue to come along, keeping the bronze theme going.

Roneya coulterii

This was on my wish list for ever so long, and now Romneya coulterii is putting on a good show right here along our fence line.

water lily

The water lilies get less sun than they would like. Usually, one blossom is all we get, but this year we’ve had three so far.

So July is off with a bang, which seems appropriate. These are my kind of fireworks.

tis the aquisition season

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Acanthus sennii

Hortlandia gets the buying season off to a flying start. I had a cold. This is where gardening buddies are invaluable (as well as in many other ways). Loree asked if she could be on the lookout for anything for me. I immediately thought of a plant I’d been admiring in her Danger Garden, Acanthus sennii, above. True to her word, she looked, and she found. Woo hoo…add another star to Loree’s crown.

Means plants

Means Nursery is so nearby that I can easily pop in whenever I have a special need. Two ipomoea batatis ‘Mardi Gras’ and one Coleus ‘Chocolate Drop’ filled the bill…

red pot with Means plants

to fill this red pot that had been standing empty.

Daphne odora ‘Mae-jima’

When it comes to plants, I can never stick to a list. I’ve been wanting a daphne, so Daphne odora ‘Mae-jima’ came home with me too.

blogger swap1

Next up: the Oregon Bloggers’ Swap, with the welcome addition of several Washingtonians. Starting from the top, let’s go clockwise, skipping the two pots disappearing from the bottom of the photo. A nice flaming Euphorbia whose name I can’t remember…maybe Dixter?; Rubus lineatus; Pacific Coast Iris; Polypodium scaulen; Dicentra spectabilis

more swap plants

Sorry, that big pot still fails to show off Iris confusa, but believe me, it’s a beauty; Arum ‘Jack Sprat’; Pulmonaria; ‘Ron Davidson’; and a pretty little frosty Heuchera whose name escapes me (it’s ‘Snow Angel’. You guys are so good!). The bloggers are all true plant nuts, and they bring fabulous stuff to our swaps. By the time someone has spieled about a beloved plant, I’m a convert even if I never noticed that plant before. What a fabulous way to introduce new material into the garden. Somehow I failed to get photos of the nice big clumps of Polygonatum and Convellaria majalis, but they’ll be showing up in future posts, you can be sure.

plants from Linda

Last Sunday, Linda and I met up at Joy Creek to wander the display gardens and shop for plants. Linda never arrives empty handed. This time she brought me a couple of primroses I had admired in her garden and a Hellebore to try. She says to plant it in sun, so that may be the problem with those I have (all in shade).

porch pots

Heading to meet Linda, I stopped by Means to get a few things for porch pots: upright Fuchsia ‘Firecracker’ to put in a cachepot; two Impatiens and Lysimachia ‘Midnight Sun’ to spill from a wall pocket.

plants from Joy Creek

And finally, here’s my haul from Joy Creek: center front, Erodium chrysanthum; front left and right, Zauschneria ‘Everett’s Choice’; top left, Phlomis italica; top center, Oxalis ‘Klamath Ruby’ with purplish undersides to the leaves; top right, Oxalis oregana. I probably should have waited for cooler, overcast days to do the planting, but I’ll just have to be a diligent waterer until we get back to some Oregon weather. We will, won’t we?

April sighed, and stepped aside…

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

…and along came pretty little May. Guess it’s time to take a look around.

Tulipa ‘Rococo’

This Tulipa, ‘Rococo’ is a gift from Linda. Is it not spectacular?

Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’

I’m happy with the way this new bed is coming together. Right behind ‘Rococo’ is a bronze fennel, beyond that Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ blooms at the feet of Phygelius’ ‘Devil’s Tears’, beyond which you can just make out an Angelica from Ryan (sorry, I don’t have a link for him just now) in a blog swap, a herbaceous peony and some shrubby dogwoods.

long grass

We put off the first mow as long as possible, because I love the look of the long grass.

grass after mowing

Here it is after mowing, cut long (4″), but still looking a little burned.

apple blossoms

After the pears have dropped their petals, along come the apple blossoms. That blue sky really sets them off…well, it just about sets everything off to advantage.

Cardoon foliage

In it’s second year (grown from seed) the Cardoon foliage is spectacular.

Acaena inermis

Acid green ‘Persian Velvet’ and ground cover Acaena inermis ‘Purpurea’ get a jolt of color as the red rhody gets underway.

Crape myrtle

Late to the party, the emerging leaf buds of the Crape myrtle capture the light.


My first time growing Lewisia, and it seems happy in a bed where not many things are. As you can see, I’ve been busy planting and have neglected weeding chores…must get to that next.

mystery plant

These little cuties are welcome mystery volunteers. Note the little white flower lower right, and please tell me if you know what this is. This just in from Peter: this lovely little wildflower is Trientalis latifolia, or Pacific starflower. Thanks, Peter!

Agave neomexicana

I finally gave up on having Agave neomexicana in the ground (that’s it…the disconsolate brown blob on the right). In the pot is the pup I separated from it at planting in 2010. Slow and steady, she has a pup of her own now. I see signs of life on the original, so I guess I’ll pot it up and see what happens.

Acer pseudoplantanus ‘Puget Pink’

Pretty as any flower, Acer pseudoplantanus ‘Puget Pink’ is at its very best when the fresh apricot-toned leaves are unfolding. In the background is R. sinogrande, having come through a winter unscathed for the first time.

Lecesteria ‘Alexander’

I spent some time, early on, trying to cut out all of the shoots of Lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’ that had reverted to solid green, but finally gave up. Has anyone had luck waging this battle on something that begins life with lovely variegation but insists on returning to boring solid green?

Rhododendron ‘Newcomb’s Sweetheart’

Many of our many Rhododendrons are in full bloom now. I will resist dragging you through the whole catalog, instead letting ‘Newton’s Sweetheart’ stand in for all the others.

Saxifraga dentata

The shapes of these leaves are what rings my bell, but the dainty flowers on Saxifraga dentata from Loree (yep, another blog swap acquisition) are fine too.

small purple iris

The first of the iris to bloom, these small purple ones adapt to any situation, so I have them scattered about, where they contribute a brief punch of color, followed by long lasting sword shaped leaves.

R. Oreotrophes and Polygonum bistorta ‘Superbum’

Isn’t it fun when accidental combinations turn out pleasantly? In the foreground here is Rhododendron oreotrephes. The middle sports Polygonum bistorta ‘Superbum’ (I think the proper pronunciation is su PER bum, but it will always be super BUM to me). The green background is provided by Leycesteria formosa.

Happy May Day!

some observations

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

cherry blossoms

The cherry trees are blooming, but not the great white cloud of years past.

lichen and moss on cherry trees

The trees are covered with lichen and moss. I wonder if that has anything to do with the sparse bloom. Of course the rain could also be the culprit. Any theories?

Euphorbia wulfenii after the rain

The rain has certainly taken its toll on Euphorbia wulfenii. When it stands up straight it reaches our second story, and is magnificent. Here, it’s been beaten down to the ground. Ah, well..we takes our chances with this one, but it’s well worth the gamble when things go right.

Anemone blanda ‘Alba’

I planted lots of white anemones, but the heathers have overtaken most of them. Time to order lots more.

fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’

Last year the Fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’ went wild and grew clear to the top of the deck roof. Usually, it dies back and/or it gets cut back to the ground. Not this year! It’s leafing out already and I am tempted to give it free rein and see what happens. Do you think I’d be creating a monster?

Saxifraga dentata

I’m crazy about the sawtoothed leaves of the Saxifraga dentata I got from Loree at the last plant swap. I left this much of the clump intact, to be on the safe side, but what I really wanted to do was spread it around as a ground cover.

Saxifraga dentata divided

Success! Here are the starts I separated from the main clump last fall. Looks like I’m good to go.

Mahonia ‘King’s Ransom’

I have a big patch of Mahonia ‘King’s Ransom’. It flowers nicely, but the foliage is rather diseased looking and the plants are leggy. Right after the flowers fade, I am going to cut it back hard. If it doesn’t behave itself next year, it’s coming out (sometimes these threats are just what’s needed).


Another disappointment is this Hellebore, always looking down demurely, afraid to show her face. She would be just right for a terraced garden, where one could catch her off guard by looking up. Anyone out there ready to give her those conditions?