It’s been quite the warm winter day today – a high of 50°F! Lately, it has just been gray and rainy, but since the sun decided to peek out of the clouds for half an hour today I thought it was a good time to check on progress. I slipped on my coat, grabbed my camera, and went out to the garden.
The first thing I see when I step out of my front door is a Melianthus major that I’m overwintering. I scored this free beauty when the containers at work were getting refreshed for the winter season and I asked the designer what he was going to do with it. He shrugged and said that he wasn’t sure, so I didn’t give it much thought afterwards. When I went back to the break room to eat my lunch I nearly squealed: there it was sitting in a plastic pot next to my box! When I took the massive baby on the bus that night I got quite a few stares, comments, and questions. Yes it’s looking a bit tired now, but once spring rolls around I will give it a nice haircut and plant it out in a sunny spot.
If you live in Puget Sound you know you take no chances when the sun is out anytime of the year, so I wasted no time and headed through the garden gate to the back garden. The first section is a long, narrow bed that runs beyond the length of the house. This bed is characterized by heavy clay (I try to amend), which receives full sun on the east end and brief morning sun then high shade for the rest of the day on the west end.
Poking around the fallen leaves and mulch I found Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ surfacing out of the black earth. This year will be it’s second year in the ground and I hope it explodes into an elegant mass of shocking yellow and hot pink. (It also as a twin at the end of this bed, but I have yet to see any signs of life yet.)
Up from the Dicentra I moved some pine needles to find my young Darmera peltata plump and very alive. I got it as a “weed” seedling two years ago and it has established and gotten bigger. I just love the the knobby rhizome and waxy green bud scales on the growing end – it looks kind of like a green thumb. It probably won’t bloom this year, but it would be so cool to have a stand of naked stems with heads of pink lollipop flowers in early spring and huge lotus leaves through summer.
I headed towards the giant pine on the north side of the garden and saw that the Helleborus orientalis hybrids were starting to stir and wake up. The double wine colored hellebore is the second earliest to raise this year and the plain white one being the third. The earliest one this year is the Golden Lotus strain, which is surprising since it has been in the ground the shortest amount of time.
Helleborus niger are always first to bloom before the orientalis hybrids and mine are still going strong! They are a very clean white, like fresh linens, if you can keep the slugs off of them. I planned ahead this year and scattered Sluggo throughout the warmer parts of late autumn and winter to keep the hoards of slugs (and now snails) from marring my winter flowering jewels.
You can never have enough hellebores I say! Every year there are so many different colors and forms that are introduced that it is hard not to collect them all, and to make matters worse there are loads of species to choose from as well! I hope to add a lacy, soft Helleborus foetidus and a hunky, silvery Helleborus argutifolius to my garden this year. Both are very different from your traditional hellebores. Anyway, enough about hellebores for now…expect for a few more photos…Here is the white Helleborus orientalis hybrid waking up is my first hellebore ever and I brought it from the Northwest Flower & Garden Show four years ago.Remember Golden Lotus a couple posts back? Here is that iced flower in full bloom! This my best Helleborus niger this year – just look at all those blossoms!
I wandered towards the west side of the house to a small circular bed, that has been over taken by grass, mint, and Schizostylis coccinea, to check on my Magnolia ashei. Magnolia ashei is a rare US native magnolia only found in small populations along the Floria panhandle. Though it is of sub-tropical origins, it’s apparently quite hardy in our climate. The plant itself will grow to become a tall shrub/small tree, but the leaves can grow to 2 feet long! How’s that for tropical drama! The bowl-shaped flowers are also large, white with a red blotch at the base of the petals, and have a citrusy fragrance. I bought my rooted cutting from Joy Greek Nursery during the autumn and planted it right away. It’s so young and unestablished, I worried if it would disintegrate after a hard freeze, but so far it’s weathered nippy temperatures without a scratch.
I do not need to fret over my Primula denticulata, however. Hailing from the alpine regions of the Himalayas this plants is well acquainted with cold a and ice. As long as it receives constant moisture and tucked away from the burning sun in the summer, it is a long-lived and carefree perennial. I can’t wait to see the drumstick inflorescence in spring! (If you haven’t noticed I kind of have a thing for primulas…all I have to say is prepare yourself for lots of primula related posts during spring and summer…)
Speaking of primula, all the Primula veris plants I started from seed last February are starting to bud and even a few are showing signs of petals! I believe that the straight species of this English wildflower is under appreciated and hard to find. Though the flowers maybe be small, the rich buttery yellow color, sweet powdery fragrance, lush lettuce leaves, and its tolerance of clay soil more than makes up for any shortcomings (if there were any).
Colder temperatures should be returning again and that means I should probably be returning back to working on plant labels. What’s waking up in your garden?