two weeks of ‘in a vase’

June 17th, 2014

pink peonies, etc.

This is a bouquet I put together last week. The pink herbacious peony has finally reached critical mass, and produces enough flowers that I can cut a few without making the garden suffer. I’m not crazy about pink, but paired with deep wine and burgundy it takes on an altogether punchier personality. Here, I’ve used tall stems of Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ and three big, shiny Heuchera leaves. The red of the Red Dragon stems shows to advantage in the vase. A few airy sprigs of the wildflower Silene complete the picture.


I thought you might like a closer look at some of the elements.

in the border

The iris growing in front of the peony was pristine white. For the fleeting moments that both were in bloom, I had me a magical combo.


This was the border that yielded both of the dark elements.

Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’

The peonies lasted less than a week, but everything else was as good as new, so I refreshed it with three stems stolen from my Eremurus patch. This one is ‘Cleopatra’.

I learned of the ‘In A Vase’ meme on Christina’s wonderful blog. The source, and where you can join in the fun of gleaning bouquets from your garden, is Cathy. See you there?

memory lane

June 11th, 2014

Jenni’s house

I went to West Linn high school, so when Jenni offered to host the spring blogger’s plant swap, I was doubly excited. Getting to hang out with garden nuts who have become friends while we trade plants; getting to poke around old haunts…what could be better?
Jenni, her husband and kids have taken on the project of revitalizing a home and garden that have been in the family for generations. Just have a gander at that bold, modern color and you get an idea of the direction they are taking.

the back yard

The lot stretches waay back to beyond those raspberry bushes you see in the distance. The grass was wet, so only a couple of hardy souls, properly shod, ventured back there. I know from Jenni’s blog that there are raised beds on the left of the path that get put to good use come summer.

flower beds

A pair of mixed borders flank the entrance to that back area we just saw. The swap was in late April, and I think these bed are looking pretty great for that early in the season. Just imagine what they must look like now.

pink dogwood

There’s lots of history here, meaning several mature trees. Talk about bones!

the swap

We crowded onto the driveway with our plants. Here a serious conference is going on. Heather, Amy, Jane, Ann, Loree and Matthew look like they are debating the merits of some offering.typical street

Back in the day, the little town of Willamette was a sleepy little burg ideally located on the Willamette River. It had lots of trees but no sidewalks. None of that has changed.


No sign of what’s been happening in so many communities, namely multi-family units and McMansions shoehorned into slots where humble abodes once sat.


Cute little cottages and farm houses in a melange of architectural styles have simply been upgraded with fresh paint and gardens (nobody “gardened” back when I was visiting friends in Willamette).


Houses I remembered as “ramshackle” have been spruced up without losing their character.



I failed to get photos of the main street, which is a shame. Like the town itself, it has spruced up, with any new buildings taking on the character of others on the street. It reminds me a little bit of Carmel, but not as slick. This is my idea of gentrification done right (if that is even the right word for it). So often, visiting old stomping grounds is a sad exercise. Willamette has been annexed and is now considered part of West Linn, but it has managed to maintain its own distinct personality. I guess you can go home again, and even be pleasantly surprised.

Eremurus, always a favorite

June 5th, 2014


From the very first sign of it breaking through the ground, Eremurus generates excitement and anticipation.


This is what ‘Cleopatra’ looks like right now.


I borrowed a photo taken in July of 2011 to show you what there is to look forward to. I’m pretty sure they will be bloomed out by July, so this must be evidence that they are early this year.

Eremurus ‘Ruiter’s Hybrid’

My first attempt was Eremurus ‘Ruiter’s Hybrid’. It would bloom one year, then do nothing the next. This isn’t a bad shot, but nothing compared to the way the light was hitting it before I dashed into the house to get the camera. You know how that goes, I’m sure.


Now that I have moved it to the berm where Cleo was performing well, it produces several “candles” and comes along later for a long blooming season. I get most of my bulbs from John Scheepers, where the photos of Cleopatra make it look a much deeper orange than it ever gets for me. Oh well, I can live with that small disappointment. Here’s what their catlog has to say:

Desert Candle or Foxtail Lily: Deer and rodent-resistant, these willowy spires are comprised of densely packed florets that open progressively from the bottom of each spike up, with a sparse, low growing rosette of long, strappy leaves. Preferring rich, well-drained soil with bright sunlight and protection from wind, these woody, tuberous rootstocks should be planted upon receipt 36″ apart, never crowded, and covered with only 2″ to 3″ of soil. They dry out after harvest and rehydrate once planted. Loosen the soil at each each planting site and gently place each brittle, spidery rootstock with its pointed crown pointed up. Avoid breakage. In marginal zones, apply a 2″ layer of mulch after the ground freezes. Zones 5-8.

Does one plant stand out in your garden as a momentary favorite? Danger Garden gives you an opportunity to gush about it.

hello June

June 4th, 2014

Delusional Drive

I put the new dark iris here, with Ceanothus impressus ‘Victoria’ blooming in back. C. ‘Blue Jeans’ blooms earlier, but between the gray skies and the more muted blue of the flowers, it is way less showy.

dark iris close up

Here’s a closer look at that iris in full bloom.

mahogany iris

Down at the other end of Delusional Drive, a mahogany iris (again NOID) shows up nicely against a background of Stachys ‘Helen Von Stein’.


On the other side of the drive, foxgloves volunteer en masse.

R. ‘Ebony Pearl’

In Richard’s Berm of Sorrow, so called because he has it crammed with weeping and prostrate plants, Rhododendron ‘Ebony Pearl’ is sprouting shiny new red leaves that will eventually turn the dark color that gives it its name (much preferable to the pink flowers which, thankfully, are fleeting).

Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’

Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’ is working up to a fine showing. Cleo adds a few more stems each year.

Eremurus ‘Ruiter’s Hybrid’

Since Cleo seemed so happy here, I move E. ‘Ruiter’s Hybrid’ to keep her company. This seems to be the sweet spot for these treasures. I’m at least as happy as they are.

Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’

Look at the cute little candy striped bud on the Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’ I got from Anna at last year’s swap.


It looked like it would bloom pink, but I should have known to trust Anna.


I wanted to cluster pots out front, but I didn’t want the hassle of grass growing up all around and between them. My solution was to lay down thick layers of newspaper, position the pots and fill in around them with pea gravel.


The orchid-like blooms on the strawberry saxifrage I got from Linda are light and airy.


They quickly filled this big pot. A small Chamaecyparus lawsoniana ‘Somerset’ will have to do some serious growing to hold its own.


Inside, an orchid that has sat unnoticed on a windowsill is proving that neglect is its favorite kind of treatment.

orchid bud

I was thinking that repotting was in order when I noticed a bud. On closer examination I found three more budding stems.


Not one to argue with success, however unearned, I plopped pot and all into this wonderful tin cachepot. Now I can look forward to several months of continuing beauty. These are just a few of the highlights revealed by a stroll in early June. How is June unfolding at your place?

Allium siculum by any other name…

May 30th, 2014

Allium bulgaricum (Nectarosecorum)

…would still be my favorite plant in the garden this week.

Sicilian honey garlic

It goes by so many names, and they seem to be more or less interchangeable: Allium bulgaricum (Nectaroscordum); Allium siculum bulgaricum; plus the common names: Sicilian honey garlic, Sicilian honey lily, Mediterranean bells.


The most informative description I found was on Wikipedia. My own experience has been that it grows best in dappled shade and is one of the few members of the genus Allium to reliably come back and even multiply.


I’m counting on it to continue doing that, so that eventually there will be a colony big enough to offer up a few stems for bouquets. It has all the attributes I value: long, sturdy stems; a lax umbrel of bell-shaped flowers; interesting foliage (triangular in cross section, strappy and twisted); muted colors with a striped pattern. Find more favorites by visiting the Danger Garden, and why not join in while you’re at it?

memories in a vase

May 26th, 2014


Any stroll around our garden brings thoughts of friends who have gifted or traded many of the plants forming the backbone of the beds and borders. Most poignant of these are the memorial plants. With Memorial Day upon us, I noticed that several of these were blooming simultaneously.The idea of a memorial bouquet was born. I knew it would be a mixed posy, so a simple glass cylinder seemed like the best vase choice. A few smooth stones hold the stems in place. The yellow tree peony is ‘Gold Sovereign’. It is the last of the blooms on a plant that honors my mom, Mini. All highly appropriate, as she lived to the age of 93 and always had something of the attitude of royalty. Our other tree peony, ‘Chinese Dragon’, is past blooming but the foliage remains beautiful, so I included some of it to honor my dad, Jim. He had the heart of a dragon and shared my love of fantasy. R’s brother, John, died at an early age, bringing us a special kind of sorrow. He is represented by the branch of dogwood, Cornus kousa ‘China Girl’. Our good friends brought us this tree to remember John by and as it grows in beauty it does, indeed, bring fond memories to replace the pain of loss. Our first cat, Manny, is represented by a branch of his sourwood tree Oxydendrum arboreum. It may seem strange to place him on the same plane as people we have lost, but anyone who has let a special pet into his/her heart will understand.


Bringing the vase inside and photographing it against a simpler background makes it easier to see all of the elements. I added a few columbine to give it more height and a branch of Weigelia ‘Wine and Roses’ (foliage only) for color contrast. Cathy at Rambling in the Garden started the tradition of making a bouquet from her garden each Monday. I decided to join in from time to time. You can too, by following the link, enjoying Cathy’s offering, then leaving your own link in the comments.

Arisaema, a group of favorites

May 23rd, 2014

Arisaema triphyllum

When I first introduced Arisaema triphyllum to the woodland’s edge, I had visions of it forming a colony of Jack-in-the-Pulpits. That was in 2010 and there is still only one.

A. taiwanese

Frustrated by its recalcitrant ways, I added A. taiwanese from my first visit to Xera in 2013. Already it has gone from one to two blooms. Maybe it has something to do with the source?

A. taiwanese foliage

The foliage on this one is quite beautiful.


It’s a good thing too, because the flowers hide coyly beneath the leaves. Love those patterned stems.

A. concinnum

The HPSO spring sale, Hortlandia, yielded yet another to my growing collection: A. concinnum. It is less of a shrinking violet than the others, in that the leaf bends away from the flower. As it unfurled, the leaf looked like it might be diseased or slug-damaged, but I needn’t have worried.

A. concinnum

Sorry for the out-of-focus photo, but since it is pouring rain at the moment, I’m stuck with it. I hope these close relatives can learn to get along in the colonization I have forced upon them. You can learn more about the many faces of Arisaema here. Join us over at Danger Garden by leaving a comment with a link to your favorite plant in the garden this week.

Schreiner’s Iris Gardens

May 20th, 2014


These folks take full advantage of the fact that Mother’s Day falls in the middle of iris season. There were plenty of places to picnic, free bouquets for moms and even a harpist.

artist at work

A few artists had set up their easels. You had to be a bit of an exhibitionist because there was no shortage of onlookers.

iris beds

The iris beds are set out in rows, filling a large area with wide grass paths between.

iris with companion plants

They are meant to show off the iris in combination with companion plants. I quite liked the tall purple lupine with the yellow iris.

iris with peony

An iris/peony combo can be effective, but I didn’t think these colors worked very well together.

ID’s on all iris

It kept the borders from being completely integrated, but placing the irises on the outsides of the rows and clearly labeling them made it easy to choose favorites.


I was on the lookout for ‘Before the Storm’, a nearly black iris, after admiring it on a blog (I’ll come back later and link to it). It was available on line, but I couldn’t find it in the gardens. There were plenty of other dark beauties though.

mixed hedgerow

The mixed plantings surrounding the display garden created some lovely spots to picnic.

vignette with blue pot and eremurus

Occasionally, a planting would leave out iris altogether, like this one with Eremurus surrounding a huge blue pot.

dusky brown

I tend to go for the dusky colors. I can’t quite read the whole label on this one, but at $45 it’s a little rich for my blood anyway.

Touch of Mahogany

I’ll settle for ‘Touch of Mahogany’ for a mere $9.

Some Like it Hot

Maybe I’ll even spring for the $16 ‘Some Like It Hot’ when I put in my order for ‘Before The Storm’.

long table displays

Talk about impressive: this photo shows only a portion of the hall filled with labeled cut specimens of all the iris available here.

the loot

There was a big table of potted up iris for sale. Knowing of my quest, R bought me a dark one and I added a delicate Siberian. I have misplaced the labels, so I can’t be more exact until they turn up. There’s my free Mother’s Day bouquet, which doesn’t look like much in this photo, but each of those buds turned into a beautiful blossom and I am still enjoying it over a week later.


The subtle markings on this were what spoke to me.


They threw in a free catalog and I went for some special fertilizer. Next year should be a good iris year. This was a fun outing, especially taking the back roads south of Portland. If a road trip is not in the cards, you can check Schreiner’s online. How about you? Are you smitten with iris? What else takes your breath away in this pulchritudinous month of May?

even in May, foliage triumphs

May 16th, 2014

Rogersia ‘Bronze Peacock’

The beautiful bronze foliage is all I ask of Rogersia ‘Bronze Peacock’. It produced a single pink flower last year and I left it in anticipation of the promised seed head. It underwhelmed, so this year it will be “off with their heads”.

Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula Purpurea’

The weeping birch, Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula Purpurea’ will turn a deeper shade of purple as time goes by.


The emerging leaves are more coppery and dangle in a zigzag path.

Berberis replicata

After the petals fall, these reddish drupes remain on the Berberis replicata.

Delusional Drive

Here’s a shot from the back side of Delusional Drive. It depends almost exclusively on foliage.


Most of the conifers are frosted with light green growing tips.

Hacanachloa macra

Japanese forest grass spills over the rock border edging.

Euphorbia ‘Excaliber’

Euphorbia ‘Excaliber’ is at its very best right now, so you will possibly forgive me for always including it in May’s Foliage Follow Up, hosted, as always, by fellow foliage worshiper Pam. Later in the month, Foliage Follow Up goes by another name, and can be found here, where Christina’s blog, ‘Creating my own Garden of the Hesperides’ has been influencing many of my plant choices lately.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, May edition

May 15th, 2014

Viburnum ???

The tag on this viburnum, which I purchased in the fall for its vibrant red foliage, claimed it was ‘Pink Beauty’ and the photo bore that out. I was pleased as punch when these white snowflake flowers appeared instead, but now I am in the dark about what to call it.


The deer like it too, They did quite the pruning job before I noticed and sprayed it with my foul smelling spray. They are in for a surprise the next time they visit the salad bar.

Saxifraga geum dentata

I say this a lot, but Saxifraga geum dentata is here purely for the leaf shape. The dusting of fairy wand flowers is welcome, though. Thanks Loree.

Convallaria majalis

Lily-of-the-Valley, Convallaria majalis, multiplies rapidly. In this study in green, I like the way the textures play together: frothy juniper top left, anemone ‘Honorine de Jobert’ top right, with the smooth swords of the Lily-of-the-Valley coming up through a carpet of baby tears. In another year’s time there should be plenty to pick a highly fragrant bouquet and keep the sparse look of flowers as punctuations.

Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’

A welcome touch of blue is added here and there by Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’. I use it extensively because it is a tough and rapidly spreading ground cover. It has even volunteered in our so-called lawn.

red Rhody with Acaena inermis ‘Purpurea’

A no-name red bargain Rhody is finally coming into its own, set off by a carpet of Acaena inermis ‘Purpurea’.

Heleanthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant’

It’s hard to capture the red-orange sparkle of Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant’, but I’m including it anyway because I love it so.

Euphorbia ‘Fire Charm’

More fireworks come from Euphorbia ‘Fire Charm’.

Iris ‘Immortality’

May is iris season. This one is ‘Immortality’.

Iris ‘Beverly Sills’

The blushing Iris is ‘Beverly Sills’, flanked by NOID bronzy numbers and some Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’. I tend to use the fence line as kind of a testing ground for new iris varieties, then introduce them into beds and borders (always thinking about next year).


It’s hard to resent buttercups’ invasive ways when they so cheerfully dot the grass between mowings. This from one who spent two whole days fighting back their onslaught into borders with no end in sight. If gardening is the slowest art form, this might have something to do with it. May is exploding with colorful blossoms, but I will quit here and send you on over to May Dreams Gardens for more…much more.