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In Growth

27 Nov

Oh dear, I can’t believe I didn’t write anything for a whole growing season! I’m here to say that I am alive and the blog lives on, but I am hesitant to promise a more regular posting since I’ve made that promise a few times before without the best follow through.

One of my favorite little woodland plants, Maianthemum stellatum, looking fresh before the drought took its toll.

One of my favorite little woodland plants, Maianthemum stellatum, looking fresh before the drought took its toll.

Between the budding projects and responsibilities at work and the longest, hottest, and driest summer in Seattle history, there wasn’t much time left to write. (I really don’t know how other bloggers do it.)

Spring came incredibly early this year, so the Long Bed erupted into growth with amazing vigor.

Spring came incredibly early this year, so the Long Bed erupted into growth with amazing vigor.

My own garden suffered quite a bit, but this was the perfect year to leave the garden to edit itself. Anything what wasn’t well established or sited well would wither away allowing space for the more suited plantings to spread. Of course being a bit soft hearted I saved and doted upon a few select plants, but over all everyone had to make it through by their own devices.

Spring

Even before the normally reliable rains petered out the alternation of warm sunny days and mild rainy ones kept everyone looking quite good. Nearly everything bloomed all at once, so it was very difficult to photograph everything.

One of my favorite sights this spring was seeing the icy teal blue spruce and soft pink plumes of cherry blossoms against the wonderfully blue sky.

One of my favorite sights this spring was seeing the icy teal blue spruce and soft pink plumes of cherry blossoms against the wonderfully blue sky.

The (late) potted tulips sailed through the mild winter and began blooming a month early with a riot of color.

The (late) potted tulips sailed through the mild winter and began blooming a month early with a riot of color.

As usual the Bletilla orchids put on a great show though this year the chartreuse blooms of Euphorbia characias and ruddy flowers of Rosa 'Mutabilis' added to the effect.

As usual the Bletilla orchids put on a great show though this year the chartreuse blooms of Euphorbia characias and ruddy flowers of Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ added to the effect.

I received this Ranunculus ficaria 'Flore Pleno' from a friend in early spring...hopefully it doesn't have plants of garden domination.

I received this Ranunculus ficaria ‘Flore Pleno’ from a friend in early spring…hopefully it doesn’t have plants of garden domination.

I love the sweet smelling double flowers of Primula veris 'Katy Mcsparron' and despite the heavy blossoms the heads look up.

I love the sweet smelling double flowers of Primula veris ‘Katy Mcsparron’ and despite the heavy blossoms the heads look up.

The Long Bed always looks so verdant in spring, but if the lady ferns aren't well watered in the summer they crisp and brown terribly. I dig them out in late summer and planted other perennials in their place.

The Long Bed always looks so verdant in spring, but if the lady ferns aren’t well watered in the summer they crisp and brown terribly. I dig them out in late summer and planted other perennials in their place.

I find that the brooding blossoms on Geranium phaeum 'Variegatum' helps ground the splashy nature of its cream variegation.

I find that the brooding blossoms on Geranium phaeum ‘Variegatum’ helps ground the splashy nature of its cream variegation.

I love the long dangling pedicels of Mertensia bella - a lovely Pacific Northwest native.

I love the long dangling pedicels of Mertensia bella – a lovely Pacific Northwest native.

The only well-drained area in my garden is this long narrow bed about a foot wide. Everything Mediterranean lives here along with this lovely Iris 'Cloud Ballet'.

The only well-drained area in my garden is this long narrow bed about a foot wide. Everything Mediterranean lives here along with this lovely Iris ‘Cloud Ballet’.

After removing the Siberian irises back in February, I was happy to see that the fragrant Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus would bloom along side sweet Tellima grandiflora.

After removing the Siberian irises back in February, I was happy to see that the fragrant Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus would bloom along side sweet Tellima grandiflora.

Summer

This summer was quite the blur. I seemed like everything needed my attention, so I didn’t get many chances to photograph what was blooming. Plus most of the plants were stressed and ragged from the drought, so I spared them from the camera’s unflinching view.

I've been impressed with how hardy Osteospermum jucundum has been in my garden. I has survived at least four winters now, but unfortunately hasn't produced any viable seed while I've grown it.

I’ve been impressed with how hardy Osteospermum jucundum has been in my garden. I has survived at least four winters now, but unfortunately hasn’t produced any viable seed while I’ve grown it.

This is Taraxacum pseudoroseum, a pink flowered species of dandelion that I grew from seed and of course I was delighted by its first bloom this year. (Yes, I know I am a bit of a nut.)

This is Taraxacum pseudoroseum, a pink flowered species of dandelion that I grew from seed and of course I was delighted by its first bloom this year. (Yes, I know I am a bit of a nut.)

This is one of the flowers from an heirloom seed strain of carnations I started earlier in the year. Dianthus 'Enfant de Nice' is an old French variety with spicy clove scented flowers of mixed shades of red, pink, white, and purple.

This is one of the flowers from an heirloom seed strain of carnations I started earlier in the year. Dianthus ‘Enfant de Nice’ is an old French strain with spicy clove scented flowers of mixed shades of red, pink, white, and purple.

I started a bunch of dahilas from seed this year, but this seedling had the richest ox-blood red flowers which I can't capture on camera very well.

I started a bunch of dahilas from seed this year, but this seedling had the richest ox-blood red flowers which I can’t capture on camera very well.

Without a hard freeze over the winter Fuchsia magellanica 'Aurea' was quick to bloom this year.

Without a hard freeze over the winter Fuchsia magellanica ‘Aurea’ was quick to bloom this year.

It was my first year growing this black tomato (Indigo Rose), but the marauding deer didn't leave a single ripe one for me to try.

It was my first year growing this black tomato (Indigo Rose), but the marauding deer didn’t leave a single ripe one for me to try.

Rosa 'Julia Child' really need a rejuvenating prune this year, so after a hard hack and feeding in early summer it grow back and bloomed all the way through frost.

Rosa ‘Julia Child’ really need a rejuvenating prune this year, so after a hard hack and feeding in early summer it grew back and bloomed all the way through frost.

Pelargonium 'Attar of Roses' grew magnificently in the summer heat. It was a joy pruning back the rich rose scented sprawling stems.

Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ grew magnificently in the summer heat. It was a joy pruning back the rich rose-scented sprawling stems.

Autumn

Autumn came late this year, but when it did arrive it was a drastic and noticeable switch. It was still quite mild and the sunny days were beautiful, but the cooler and damper weather gave many plants much needed relief from the straining summer.

Oddly the Rhododendron occidentale decided to blossom again in September. Maybe it was rejoicing the autumn rains

Oddly the Rhododendron occidentale decided to blossom again in September. Maybe it was rejoicing the autumn rains.

Another rebloomer was Veronica gentianoides 'Pallida'. I love the china blue veins on its porcelain white petals.

Another rebloomer was Veronica gentianoides ‘Pallida’. I love the china blue veins on its porcelain white petals.

As soon as Tricyrtis formosana 'Blu-shing Toad' started to bloom I knew it was the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.

As soon as Tricyrtis formosana ‘Blu-shing Toad’ started to bloom I knew it was the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.

Thanks to the late mild autumn, Chrysanthemum 'Apricot' had a beautiful display. The shimmering peach color brighten grey days.

Thanks to the late mild autumn, Chrysanthemum ‘Apricot’ had a beautiful long display. The shimmering peach color brighten grey days.

Here is Chrysanthemum 'Matchsticks' - a new acquisition - in a blaze of scarlet and gold.

Here is Chrysanthemum ‘Matchsticks’ – a new acquisition – in a blaze of scarlet and gold.

Apparently a few of my pollination attempts took on my Helwingia chinensis. How odd seeing little berries growing on a leaf.

Apparently a few of my pollination attempts took on my Helwingia chinensis. How odd seeing little berries growing on a leaf.

The over growth of the Long Bed wasn't looking too rough despite the drought this summer.

The over growth of the Long Bed wasn’t looking too rough despite the drought this summer.

I could never grow tired of smelling the sweet, yet fresh apricot scent of Osmanthus fragrans. It lives in a pot by the doorway where its wafting fragrance can be enjoyed.

I could never grow tired of smelling the sweet, yet fresh apricot scent of Osmanthus fragrans. It lives in a pot by the doorway where its wafting fragrance can be enjoyed.

In early November I took a weeklong trip to LA to visit a friend. While I was there we stopped by the Huntington Botanical Gardens for a look around.

In early November I took a weeklong trip to LA to visit a friend. While I was there we stopped by the Huntington Botanical Gardens for a look around.

The gardens were amazing, but I wish they were open longer. Four and a half hours was not enough to see the entire place!

The gardens were amazing, but I wish they were open longer. Four and a half hours was not enough to see the entire place!

The Pollination Garden

One of the many exciting projects I got to take on this summer was creating “The Pollination Garden” out in front of the University of Washington Botany Greenhouse. The container garden was designed to be a fun display for visitors where they are invited to enjoyed the flowers as they learn how to infer what pollinators each species of flower was trying to attract by looking at form, color, and scent. The garden doubled as a urban oasis for pollinators passing through both animal and human.

The garden was mostly a mixture of tropical plants and the majority of them were of straight species.

The garden was mostly a mixture of tropical plants and the majority of them were of straight species.

Here is a view of the main border.

Here is a view of the main border.

A close-up of a portion of the main border.

A close-up of a portion of the main border.

Here is the main border but looking towards the gate on a warm afternoon.

Here is the main border but looking towards the gate on a warm afternoon.

That’s all for today. Hopefully I be back around soon, but until then wishing you well and if you are in Puget Sound stay warm out there!

Emerging

23 Feb

Oh my god, my last update was in August! Sorry I haven’t written anything for a few months, but I hadn’t quite settled in at home until recently. I returned from my year abroad in November and now I have a new job at the University of Washington Botany Greenhouse. (During my undergrad I regularly volunteered at the greenhouse, but I wouldn’t have thought I would return as an employee in the future!) I’ve been caring for the research and collection plants, and since the the greenhouse will be demolished by the next year, I have been also helping with fundraising and preparing the collection plants for their big move. Dr. John Grimshaw has written a wonderful post about the greenhouse and the collection on his blog: johngrimshawsgardendiary.blogspot.com. Besides the greenhouse post, the blog is full of plant musings and wonderful pictures – it deserves a follow!

This will be the final year this plum tree blooms, and it will be removed the next few weeks. I will miss it.

This will be the final year this plum tree blooms, and it will be removed the next few weeks. I will miss it.

Now that I’m settled, of course I took a busman’s holiday and spent my entire weekend in the garden doing damage control. Nothing has been done to it for over a year and it’s been interesting seeing what has survived and what has bit the dust. Most of the garden has survived, but there were a few plants that had disappeared while some had begun to take over the beds.

Magnolia ashei is still alive, which I am excited about.

Magnolia ashei is still alive, which I am excited about.

I’ve decided that anything that hasn’t been preforming well in the garden will be lifted and given away to a new home or tossed if it is beyond saving. The first on my list were the Siberian Irises. Though beautiful in spring, the flowers and shoots are a favorite among slugs, and without full sun the leaves flop onto neighboring plants and look quite messy. Yesterday morning they all came out. (But not without a fight!) Once they were all dug up it was a wonderful feeling knowing that I will not have to fight them next year. Now that the irises are gone, I shuffled in some plants that would appreciate the room and extra sunlight.

These are all going to a new home where they will be able to spread and bask in full sun.

These are all going to a new home where they will be able to spread and bask in full sun.

Aside from two cold snaps, this year El Niño has graced Seattle with a mild winter and as a result many plants are blooming ahead of schedule. Almost everything is a month ahead, but since my garden is about 600 feet above sea level the effect is slightly less dramatic. (I am high up enough that when there is a threat of frost in Seattle my garden will freeze, so compared to sea level my flowers have been kept back.) While the snowdrops and hellebores have been blooming for a couple of weeks now, the daffodils and ranunculus have just started to bloom this week.

The snowdrops have bulked up a little, but I just wish the sweet flowers weren't so appealing to slugs.

The snowdrops have bulked up a little, but I just wish the sweet flowers weren’t so appealing to slugs.

Looking towards the hellebore bed, the ever cheerful tête-à-tête daffodils have started to bloom.

Looking towards the hellebore bed, the ever cheerful tête-à-tête daffodils have started to bloom.

Here the ranunculus have started to bloom and even the Primula veris.

Here the ranunculus have started to bloom and even the Primula veris.

When the hellebores first started to bloom a couple of weeks ago, I noticed there were many white ones blooming. I found it strange since I only had one white flowered plant. It turns out all the extra white ones were self-sown seedlings that have finally reached blooming size! (Without feeding they took a while to reach flowering maturity.)

The hellebores are looking  presentable after their leaves were clipped and the their bed raked of excessive pine needles.

The hellebores are looking presentable after their leaves were clipped and the their bed raked of excessive pine needles.

Here's a bowl of the hellebore varieties I have in the garden. The white flower in the 3 o'clock position is the original plant, and other two at 10 and 2 o'clock are its children.

Here’s a bowl of the hellebore varieties I have in the garden. The white flower in the 3 o’clock position is the original plant, and other two at 10 and 2 o’clock are its children.

After some more clearing the other beds around the garden are starting to look better as well. The Long Plot is beginning to look a bit more defined than its early stages and it is exciting to see most of the plants are taking well to the clay soil.

Here's the Long Plot now after a thorough clearing.

Here’s the Long Plot now after a thorough clearing.

Though the front garden is starting to come to life, the Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ practically hasn’t stopped growing all winter (it didn’t even drop a single leaf).  Even though I just pruned it, it is still twice the size of when I left it and there isn’t any signs of slowing. I can’t complain since a bigger plant means many more flowers this summer!

I love the burgundy tint of the new foliage of Rosa 'Mutabilis' against the acid green flowers of Euphorbia wulfenii.

I love the burgundy tint of the new foliage of Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ against the acid green flowers of Euphorbia wulfenii.

By the front door the potted plant collection is starting to grow as well. Many of the them will be planted in the grown once they are done or given away, but the plan is to eventually have just annuals in pots. That way I can easily moved them into the garden when color is needed and when the growing season is over I can compost them without any guilt. Knowing me, it probably won’t go to according to plan, especially if I attend any plant sales…

I love potted plants, but I am trying to keep them to a minimum this year, or it will be a busy summer of watering.

I love potted plants, but I am trying to keep them to a minimum this year, or it will be a busy summer of watering.

Just a short update for now, but now that I am home and settled I will be writing more often. See you later!

 

 

Early Leaf’s a Flower

25 Aug

When you look at a fern, you are looking at an artifact of a time when things were very green. Flowers did not exist and seeds were still a dream. Ferns and many of those early plants produced spores and these spores were held in and on leaves. As time steadily went on these reproductive leaves would change so radically that they became sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils. The earliest flowers were leaves and those leaves have become flowers today. Like in Robert Frost’s poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay, it is not too much of a stretch to regard leaves unfurling in spring as flowers.

Here is Adiantum pedatum subsp. aleuticum stretching out into the April sunshine.

Here is Adiantum pedatum subsp. aleuticum stretching out into the April sunshine.

Compared to all the other parts of a plant, flowers receive the most attention – though plants probably want that anyway – but I can’t help to admire the structure of leaves and stems. For example, here is Berberis calliantha. This barberry is known for its compact size, large flowers, and black fruit, but if you flip a glossy, deep green leaf over (or happen to find yourself under one) you will discover another wonderful attribute. That shockingly, steel white is so mesmerizing! Isn’t the reverse amazing? This isn’t the only barberry to have leaves like this, which is lucky for people that want one, but unlucky for collectors who are running out of garden space.

The undersides give me quite a thrill!

The undersides give me quite a thrill!

If you are looking for another evergreen, high gloss, tough plant, Angelica pachycarpa is for you! It’s unclear if this plant is a true perennial, short-lived perennial, or a biennial, but it will produce enough seeds for a few volunteers every year. This Mediterranean plant can take some drought once established, but watering it will only encourage it to grow bigger and better. After I planted it, albeit late, it just sat there starting to senesce. I wasn’t sure why it was doing this, but I read some where that after producing large, fragrant chartreuse flowers in the summer it will go semi-dormant in the heat. Whether it was the fish emulsion, frequent watering, time, or a combination, it is now finally starting to grow. I hope this plant decides to stick around for more than two years. Plus if Annie’s Annuals says it is reliably perennial – where I bought this plant – it must be true, right?

Finally waking up! I hope it grows big enough before winter arrives.

Finally waking up! I hope it grows big enough before winter arrives.

Another plant that I grow mostly for its foliage is Rosa rubiginosa (syn. Rosa eglanteria). This European rose, is a thorny, suckering plant and produces the typical scented, five-petaled-wild rose. Though the short-lived flowers are nice and the hips are a brilliant red in the autumn, its famous for its leaves: a delicious apple scent is released when brushed or drenched by the rain. This is why it is also known as the ‘sweet briar rose’. The name sounds familiar? It’s because this rose is the stuff of legends, fairy tales, and classical english literature. This is the rose that Shakespeare referenced. This is the rose that wrapped Sleeping Beauty’s castle. This is the rose that was used as a rootstock for hybrid roses.

I bought this as a start from Annie's Annuals as well, after forgetting I already had one in the back garden.

I bought this as a start from Annie’s Annuals as well, after forgetting I already had one in the back garden.

Sometimes at work I have the fun of trying to identify unusual mystery plants. In April, this semi-regular custumer came in with a small clipping of what looked like a shamrock. She said that she bought it at a local nursery unlabeled, and it was the only one there. She treated the plant as an annual and over wintered it inside. The plant grew quite tall produced large yellow pea flowers and had beautiful burgundy stipules. Miraculously by googling a description of the clipping, we discovered that it was Amicia zygomeris: a lanky shrub, native to the mountains of Mexico, and hardy down to USDA zone 7b. She went off excitedly that day and I didn’t think much of it afterward. Then about a month ago, she came in with a cutting of the plant and gave it to me as a thank you gift! This sweet little cutting was slow to grow, but it has begun to grow many side shoots.

I love the little clover leaves.

I love the little clover leaves.

I am a bit of a forgetful gardener (I blame my busy schedule) and bulbs/corms/tubers get the brunt of my forgetfulness. I don’t know if it is because they go dormant and hangout in easily forgotten paper bags, but I am glad that they are able to weather my neglect. The two bulbs (though technically one is a corm) that have grown despite a late potting is Amorphophallus konjac and Galtonia cancans. Amorpophallus is a strange tropical genus that is known for its terrible smelling, wicked flowers. It grows a single leaf a season, and with food and water the corm can grow quite large – like 100+ pounds large in the case of Amorphophallus titanum. In between growing years when the corm is mature enough, they will send up a single flower. Typically they look and smell like a giant calla lily that has risen from the dead.

These were planted two weeks ago after forgetting about them since last autumn.

These were planted two weeks ago after forgetting about them since last autumn.

Amorphophallus konjac is one of those evil looking ones when in bloom. The spathe is an off, meaty, deep purple-pink color on the inside with flecks of black, brown and olive on the outside. The spadix is a rather brownish puce. Here are some photos on plantlust.com.  The flower lasts for several days and luckily, the scent is only horrible for the first day. This amorphophallus is an easy one to grow outside in frost free areas, but also as well as a potted specimen. I when I see signs of the corm starting to sprout in late spring, they get potted in rich potting soil just an inch or two below the surface. At this point they get one good drink to settle them in, but I back off on the water. Once the growing point emerges and the leaves begin to push up out of the sheath, keep it consistently moist and well feed. The more you feed it, the larger corm will be, and the sooner it will produce a flower. At the end of the growing season, the plants may still be green, but placing them in the sunniest window will keep them happy. Once the leaves begin to yellow and wither, I stop all watering and let it dry down into dormancy and next spring start the whole process again.

Even at such a young age, the veining and spotting on the leaf is so tropical.

Even at such a young age, the veining and spotting on the leaf is so tropical.

I’ve done with same with the galtonias for the past two seasons and all but one have decided to bloom! I don’t plant them in the ground, because I have chipmunks, heavy soil, slugs/snails, etc. The list goes on. Plus in pots I can move them around to catch more sun, or place them closer to the entrance to enjoy their sweet scent.

Despite being potted very late, the bulbs are growing and budding as if nothing happened.

Despite being potted very late, the bulbs are growing and budding as if nothing happened.

Galtonia candicans is a bulb from South Africa that has wide, blueish sword-like leaves and tall inflorescences with white, waxy, bell-shaped fragrant flowers. When happy, this bulb will grow into a impressive clump and all it asks for is sun, well drained soil, and some bulb food. Great for the late summer garden by providing freshness, flowers, scent, and height when things are getting tired. Though the flowers are why we grow galtonia, I love the succulent, blue leaves just as much.

Oh I can't wait to smell the flowers!

Oh I can’t wait to smell the flowers!

In the back, the Begonia grandis subsp. evansiana is another plant that grow equally for the flowers and leaves. (I should probably just grow it for its leaves, because the flowers come so late and only if I’ve been watering well.) The young leaves start off a satiny, peachy-cream and then mature into an apple green, but not without brilliant red venation cutting through in regular sections. Even the base of the petiole and the knobby joints of the stem are stained with that same red. This begonia can propagate prolifically and I can see it becoming a weed in more tropical locations, but in Seattle its nice to have some back-ups. Just like any other household begonia you can create new plants from leaf and shoot cuttings easily, however this begonia also produces little bulbils on the joints of its stems. These ready-to-grow mini plants fall off and grow into a new begonia, so with just a few plants you can grow a large clump quickly, or fill in gaps in the shade garden. If the seedling isn’t cute enough, the juvenile leaves are dotted with the most shimmery silver spots!

The begonia mixed with the host creates such a tropical feel.

The begonia mixed with the hosta creates such a tropical feel.

In the front garden I’ve been amazed by how quickly the Chrysanthemum ‘Single Apricot’ Riz gave me last autumn is growing. The daisy flowers on this chrysanthemum are a lovely, warm apricot-pink and large and they really brighten up the garden during a time when the weather is becoming less cheerful. I’ve even seen this garden chrysanthemum bloom well into November even during not so mild years. Though I won’t get to see it bloom this year, at least I know it’s doing well in my heavier soil (and it looks like it will spread out in no time).  Maybe I’ll get lucky next year and when I return home it will be in full bloom.

I like the felty lobed leaves of the chrysanthemum against the smooth corrugated leaves of the bletilla.

I like the felty lobed leaves of the chrysanthemum against the smooth corrugated leaves of the bletilla.

That’s my quick jaunt around the garden this week. Now if you are starving to see a flower, I’ve included a rose below for you. Also, the Garden Club of America has asked me to keep a blog of my travels while I am abroad, so for your viewing and reading pleasure I am bringing my blog with me to the British Isles! Drop by soon!

Rosa 'Claire Austin' perfuming the garden with her resiny, sweet myrrh fragrance.

Rosa ‘Claire Austin’ perfuming the garden with her resiny, sweet myrrh fragrance.

Dog Days

20 Aug

It’s definitely late summer here in Seattle. August is filled with the warmest and driest days of the year and every plant has (or had) the reached peak of its growth. This is a bittersweet time of the year for me. The garden – if well watered – is at it’s height right now, and the days are warm and sunny. However, everyday the sun is slowly creeping lower in the sky and with this cooler temperatures and rain will make their grand reentrance once again. Though this year I will be experiencing autumn in a different country, but since their climate (the UK) is similar to ours I have a feeling I won’t be missing every element of home.

Nothings says summer like a gardenia and mine is still going! (There are even more buds on the way!) I wasn’t a big fan of gardenias before – they are really needy plants – but Gardenia ‘Frostproof’ has changed my mind about growing them.

Isn't it dreamy? The fragrance easily soothes shot nerves.

Isn’t it dreamy? The fragrance easily soothes shot nerves.

If you know me, I am a sucker for fragrant plants. Having fragrance in the garden is wonderful, but it isn’t enough for me. I try to keep a few fragrant houseplants to tide me over during long, cold winters. Another classic plant that is grown all over the world for it’s scent is jasmine. Jasminum sambac is a large tropical scandent shrub and its blossoms are used to scent teas, make leis, and extracted for perfumes. I prefer the scent of this jasmine species, because it is sweeter and lighter than the other ones available. It’s been blooming on and off for weeks now and all it really ask for is ample sun and water. (Feeding it also helps it bloom more vigorously.)

The scent of this single dime-sized flower effortlessly fills the room, but not in a suffocating way.

The scent of this single dime-sized flower effortlessly fills the room, but not in a suffocating way.

Another plant that is also super fragrant is Cestrum nocturnum. This plant is also a large tropical shrub, but it  is easy to keep in check by giving it a hard prune, which encourages it to produce more flowers. During the day you have to get very close to be able to smell the flowers, but once night falls is fragrance pours out. It smells very sweet, like children’s bubble gum, but with a touch of spice.

Here are the first few buds closing slightly in the morning light.

Here are the first few buds closing slightly in the morning light.

I’ve read of reports where the plant is too fragrant to the point of being noxious, but I’ve read that others love how the plant exudes sugar and spice. My shrub was very small last year, so I haven’t experienced the former, but I have a feeling I will be with the same line of thinking of the latter.

There are so many buds on the way!

There are so many buds on the way!

About a week ago, the second Agapanthus inapertus ‘Nigrescens’ started to bloom continuing the agapanthus party. I just love this species! The upright blueish leaves and the tall loose heads of nodding, dark flowers are such a delicious combination.

I love the downward facing deep bluey-purple flowers.

I love the downward facing deep bluey-purple flowers.

Next to the agapanthus, Anemone ‘Wild Swan’ is (still) in a a pot and it hasn’t stopped blooming. I was introduced to this plant by Riz when he came back from the Chelsea Flower Show in 2011. This cultivar finally made it to US shelves this spring and it was love at first sight.

I love the golden crown of anthers sitting in the center of the delicate white petals.

I love the golden crown of anthers sitting in the center of the delicate white petals.

Hardy, everblooming, white, and delicate are definitely some of it’s many good characteristics, but when you reverse the flower, there is a lovely surprise:

Beautiful contrast, isn't it?

Beautiful contrast, isn’t it?

The backside of some of the the petals have a beautiful silvery-lilac color. I believe where the petals show this wonderful change of color is where the sun was hitting as a bud during development, since with stronger sunlight the steely-lilac is much richer and dramatic. When the breeze tousles the flowers about the flashes of lilac and white is quite dynamic.

They're just so delicate and light.

They’re just so delicate and light.

Here is one of the California poppies I picked up off of the reject pile at work and it is starting to bloom again. Its name, Eschscholzia californica ‘Apricot Flambeau’, is quite a mouth full, but luckily it isn’t as difficult to make it happy.

I hope this cheerful poppy reseeds and escapes the hungry hoards of slugs next spring.

I hope this cheerful poppy reseeds and escapes the hungry hoards of slugs next spring.

Also reblooming again is my Alstroemeria ‘Sweet Laura’. This hybrid is the first scented alstroemeria in existent, but that might have changed since its introduction.

The red stamens against the clear yellow petals stands out well in the bright sunlight.

The red stamens against the clear yellow petals stands out well in the bright sunlight.

Speaking of Alstroemeria, I have a beautiful and uncommon vining cousin in bloom right now: Bomarea edulis. It has been blooming for about a week now and I couldn’t be more excited! I bought this as a 4″ potted plant from Annie’s Annuals last autumn and grew it like a houseplant during the winter. It was about to bloom in February, but some how thrips got into my house and started wreaking havoc. (The thrips have been done away with since then…) The bomarea was so stressed it aborted the flowers and kind of stopped doing anything. Once it was warm enough, I moved it outside hoping it would rejuvenate itself.

Here the buds are just beginning to open.

Here the buds are just beginning to open about a week ago.

At first it was slow to do anything, but finally the plant started to send up shoots when things got warmer and drier. It’s still sending up new shoots, but the pervious ones are starting to mature now and more buds should be on the way!

I love the details of the speckling on the lime-green petal.

I love the details of the speckling on the lime-green petal.

Here they are fully open. What a candy-colored, tropical dream!

Here they are fully open. What a candy-colored, tropical dream!

Another first time bloomer? Here is Crocosmia ‘Burnt Umber’. The combination of hot, searing orange-red, black stems, and deep olive leaves is really stunning. Though I wish the thrips didn’t warp the flowers so much.

It's quite a smoldering and livid plant.

It’s quite a smoldering and livid plant.

And here is Fuchsia magellanica ‘Riccartonii’ blooming for the first time for me as well. In every way, this fuchsia is half the size of the usual form of the species. The only thing that isn’t reduced is it’s bright colors.

These pint-sized flowers really shout from a distance.

These pint-sized flowers really shout from a distance.

I have to run off to an appointment, so that’s all I got time for now. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to write a little bit later this week. Though my visa for the UK did arrived a few weeks ago – which I feel was the biggest hurdle – I thought I would feel more at ease getting everything together. Who knew preparing to live abroad would be such an effort? (That was a joke.) I can’t believe I am leaving in two weeks for the UK, it always felt so far away…just like how autumn felt so far away.

Schizosylis coccinea 'Major' is an autumnal bloomer that does beautifully in my heavy soil.

Schizosylis coccinea ‘Major’ is an autumnal bloomer that does beautifully in my heavy soil.

Apparently nature, on the other hand, doesn’t think so.

Anthesis

2 Aug

Anthesis is a botanical term that refers to the process of a flower opening and becoming fully functioning. Since my last post a few days ago a few more plants decided to bloom. It looks like the Tricyrtis formosana var. glandosa ‘Blu-Shing Toad’ read my last post and decided to bloom yesterday! Tricyrtis are naturally found growing in the understories of forests throughout Asia, which gives reason for their penchant for soils rich with organic matter and consistent moisture. This species is fairly easy to grow, providing flowers late in summer and into early autumn when most plants have long since finished. (Just remember to bait for slugs and snails.) Tricyrtis formosana is found high in the mountains of Taiwan, hence the epithet ‘formosana’.

The first couple of blossoms opened last evening.

The first couple of blossoms opened last evening.

Look at all the little pinky-purple and blue spotting on the petals.

Look at all the little pinky-purple and blue spotting on the petals.

Have you ever had flowers sneak up on you? Well my poppies are doing that to me! I swear I did not see any buds on my Papaver rupifragum ‘Flore Pleno’. However, I went out to water them yesterday, and to my surprise I found a voluptuous, orange flower and there are even more buds on the way! I’ve read and heard warnings that this plant seeds around quite a bit, but apparently they are easy to pull up. Plus, I love a filler that will grow and bloom in tough conditions.

So cheerful, even when neglected in hot, dry sun.

So cheerful, even when neglected in hot, dry sun.

And on to something scented… Way, way in the back around the corner where the first Primula denticulata lives there is an old hosta that grows in the same bed: Hosta ‘Royal Standard’. It’s got puckered, glossy, deep green leaves, and every year it starts to bud in late summer and blooms right through early autumn. The flowers are a pristine white and they emit the most delicious jasmine fragrance, which grows stronger as day turns to night.

So many inflorescences! I found only one that was collapsed by slugs...

So many inflorescences! I found only one that was collapsed by slugs…

The flowers are doing weird things this year. Look at those petaloids!

The flowers are doing weird things this year. Look at those petaloids!

Bright reds are a difficult color to photograph and there are two flowers that are giving me some grief. Okay, find your sunglasses and put them on. Are you ready?

In the shade and during dusk, the red hue really jumps out and burns your eyeballs - I love it!

In the shade and during dusk, the red hue really jumps out and burns your eyeballs – I love it!

Wasn’t that blindingly red? It’s Pelargonium Caliente® ‘Fire’. I think the petals are SO reflective that the camera’s light meter gets overwhelmed. The next one is Cosmos ‘Sonata Carmine’. It’s not as bad as the pelargonium, but it’s petals are also reflective, so the camera isn’t picking up the true carmine color. In person the petals are a richer red, but satiny (which matches the Rosa chinensis ‘Mutabilis’ behind it).

Cosmos are fun, easy annuals that bloom all summer leaving volunteers for next year.

Cosmos are fun, easy annuals that bloom all summer leaving volunteers for next year.

That was just a quick update. This coming week I’ll be quite busy, but hopefully by that time I am able to post again I will have more and exciting things to write about. See you soon!

Envisioning the Tropics

30 Jul

Seattle is definitely far from the tropics, but the end of July and the beginning of August marks when gardens in the Northwest take a tropical turn. With a steady increase of warmth, the tropical perennials that we treat as annuals take on a whole new life: with a new reinvigorated faith that there is in fact a plant god – they have stopped sulking and are doubling/tripling, in size. Temperate plants from climates that are supposed to experience a ‘real’ summer are also putting out most of their growth now too. If the gardener remembers to provide a steady stream of water, August through September is the garden’s second crescendo here in Seattle (the first being spring). The greens of the garden are full and lush, fuchsias are dripping with blossoms, dahlias are beginning to put on a show, reblooming roses are at it again, chrysanthemums will be in bud and bloom in a few more weeks, on and on the list goes. As usual garden life doesn’t always go according to plan, so at this time of year my garden begins to grow a bit weary from the dryness of summer.

One plant that is handling my inconsistent watering well is Solanum marginatum that I bought from Far Reaches Farm last autumn. It only drops one or two lower leaves if I’ve forgotten to water it for about a week, which when I think of it, is rather polite. Unfortunately, this tender shrub is only hardy in Zones 9 and up, so I had to overwinter it.

I love the contrast between its soft white fuzz and sharp spines, which are all over - really.

I love the contrast between its soft white fuzz and sharp spines, which are all over – really.

Also, some bee action has caused one flower to produce a fruit! Hopefully it ripens before I leave, so I can harvest and share the seeds.

What a juicy looking fruit with interesting green marbling/veining!

What a juicy looking fruit with interesting green marbling/veining!

Another plant that I overwintered as a houseplant (by the way also gets mite-y like the traditional ones) is Gardenia jasminoides ‘Frostproof’. Within the last week it decided it was time to bloom. I bought this mini-shrub for half the price at work, since it was declining and looking sad. It still isn’t looking quite like the ones at work, but it is covered with buds and I couldn’t be happier! Everyday a single bud will unfurl completely by night fall. I strategically placed the gardenia in our entryway where the slightest breeze will greet us with the rich, buttery perfume.

I love how the narrow, slightly twisted petals, gives the flowers a waterlily like form.

I love how the narrow, slightly twisted petals, gives the flowers a waterlily like form.

Also by our entry way, Grevillea victoriae ‘Marshall Olbricht’ has begun setting buds for autumn. I am impressed with this Australian shrub: all it asks for is a little bit of water in the summer and in return it blooms from autumn into winter. Plus it has survived two winters out in the open in a terracotta pot. Definitely a keeper!

I won't get to see these buds in bloom, but hopefully my family will appreciate them.

I won’t get to see these buds in bloom, but hopefully my family will appreciate them.

Another plant that has done well for me in its container (actually, it has done better in the container than in the garden) is Tricyrtis formosana var. glandosa ‘Blu-Shing Toad’ from Edelweiss Perennials. When I planted two in the garden two summers ago they were constantly being mowed down by slugs and shredded into a million pieces by tunneling chipmunks.  I threw in the towel and decided to try one in a large container. I’m glad I did, because it really has exceeded my expectations. The growth it put on is quite miraculous and almost no slug bites to speak of either!

Wouldn't you say this is a happy toad lily?

Wouldn’t you say this is a happy toad lily?

Look at all those buds ready to pop!

Look at all those buds ready to pop!

Here is Agapanthus inapertus ‘Nigrescens’ just beginning to bloom. With its upright leaves and dark, brooding, introspective flowers, I would have to say that this is my favorite agapanthus.

The flowers are a deeper, purple-black in person.

The flowers are a deeper, purple-black in person.

Oh here is another plant that I adore: Dryopteris sieboldii. My coworker turned me onto this fern and I can’t get enough of it! (Thank you, Vivian!) Though this species is mainly tropical, it is hardy here in the Puget Sound. However, I am 700 feet up, so just to be safe I’ll keep it as a houseplant come winter.

I love its saber shaped fronds!

I love its saber shaped fronds!

Oh, and another thing I can’t get enough of? The new growth on my Schefflera brevipedunculata. Is it truly hardy in zone 8? No one really knows. (Dan Hinkley thinks so.) It’ll be brought in with the houseplants and tender things alike for the winter.

Nothing like fuzzy, white new growth to set my heart-a-flutter.

Nothing like fuzzy, white new growth to set my heart aflutter.

In the Front Garden, I’m trying Agastache foeniculum ‘Golden Jubilee’ for the second time. I got my first plant from Annie’s Annuals last September when I was visiting family in San Francisco. (Clay tolerant and anise scented – how could I say no?) I planted it late and it didn’t really get a chance to establish fully, but it was still a great grower. When spring rolled around, it started to sprout, but every day half of it would disappear. At first I thought it was slugs, then cutworms, even evil magic, but my antidotes weren’t working. Then it came to me: root weevils. By the time I figure it out, it was too late. It was so tired (and jaded) from regrowing over and over again that it gave up the ghost. This spring I bought a new one and planted it in a different section of the bed. It’s growing and blooming quite happily right now! Hopefully, it will be established enough to outgrow any problems next year.

The soft lavender flowers against the bright chartreuse leaves is electric!

The soft lavender flowers against the bright chartreuse leaves is electric!

Remember ‘Karmijn de Sonnaville’ just developing in spring? Look at her fruit now!

I've been waiting to taste this for years! Hopefully they will ripen in time...

I’ve been waiting to taste this for years! Hopefully they will ripen in time…

The newly planted Veronica gentianoides ‘Pallida’ in the Long Plot is reblooming for me. This low groundcover has fleshy lance shaped leaves that are arranged in a pleasingly tidy rosette. During summer tall wands of fragile, porcelain flowers sway in the softest breeze, lifting the whole garden from its heavy cloak of green. Ah, to have a nice swath of it fluttering in the warm summer air would be soothing.

Isn't this charming? I love the faint, delicate blue veining on the petals.

Isn’t this charming? I love the faint, delicate blue veining on the petals.

My ‘Julia Child’ rose is blooming again. There are already globs of blossoms here and there, but  there are more buds on the way! She is such an easy and care free rose with a tough constitution. More importantly, who could resist those anise scented, butter yellow flowers? What more could you ask for?

This might be my favorite rose...EVER.

This might be my favorite rose…EVER.

Down a bit from ‘Julia Child’ is a bright combination of plants that worked out better than I imagined! I love how the fading flowers of Astrantia ‘Abbey Road’ is really setting the gold flowers of the Crocosmia Gerbe d’Or’ aflame. On the other side, the hot-blooded flowers of Fuchsia magellanica ‘Aurea’ really meets the intensity of the crocosmia, and the bronze leaves of the crocosmia snuggling up to the chartreuse leaves of the fuchsia is a wonderful contrast.

I really like the bruised purple astrantia against the shining gold of the crocosmia.

I really like the bruised purple astrantia against the shining gold of the crocosmia.

I hope that the fuchsia grows tall enough next year, so that it’s flowers can mingle and dangle with the crocosmia flowers.

Look at those hot, burning colors together!

Look at those hot, burning colors together!

Further down the Long Plot is where it starts to take on a tropical look. About a little over a month ago, I planted Woodwardia unigemmata in an empty section at the base of the helwingia. It’s happily growing and throwing up new beautiful fronds! The fiddle heads were a redder color earlier in the season when it was cooler, but I still love that elegant, almost metal-like, new growth.

Isn't that bronze-y red just delicious?

Isn’t that bronze-y red just delicious?

To the right of the fern Helwingia chinensis and Fuchsia magellanica ‘Riccartonii’ fit right in weaving through our native Indian plum, lady ferns, and woodland strawberries. I love how this leafy corner looks! The different shapes, textures, and colors of the leaves really play off of one another quite well. I wish photographs didn’t have the tendency to flatten gardens, because this section is really layered and wonderfully light in person.

This is my little lush and jungly bit of the Long Plot.

This is my little lush and jungly bit of the Long Plot.

Further down is a new plant I got in early July at Justin’s garden festival of Growing Steady. Rubus lineatus is a slightly tender, suckering shrub from China with beautifully pleated leaves and a shimmering white undersides. I hope this one makes it through the winter and ultimately grows into a nice large shrub, because it needs to hold its own growing behind a native goat’s beard.

The silvery pleated underside of the leave is pleasantly soft and lustrous.

The silvery pleated underside of the leave is pleasantly soft and lustrous.

I’ve also been doing a lot of repotting. Like for instance, on the left I potted up a small rhizome of ginger that decided it was not going to be chopped up and cooked. I’ve learned that ginger makes a great houseplant. It might be because it is naturally found growing in warm, bright shade in the understory of the tropics – which is some what like a sunny windowsill. It’s also nice to have a ginger plant around because the leaves and flowers release a sweet ginger fragrance if brushed. Fun, right? And the plant on the right is a cutting of a scented geranium my friend gave me before heading off to study monkey vocalizations in China. I know it looks a bit tired from transport, but it is quite alive and very springy. This one smells of citronella.

Just freshly potted up.

Just freshly potted up.

Sorry it took almost a month to write again, but since this is my last week of work I (hopefully) will have more time to write about what’s happening in the garden. Here is a photo of the Long Plot now. Talk to you soon!

Here is the Long Plot in mid-summer.

Here is the Long Plot in mid-summer.

P.S. I’ve submitted the first portion of my visa application and bought my ticket to the UK – I can’t believe I am leaving in 5 weeks!

Summer’s Early

3 Jul

I’m sorry it’s been so long! I’ve been away on a short vacation and quite busy. (Getting a visa to the UK is more involved than I thought it would.) Here in Seattle we are going through our first heat wave of the year and it’s definitely earlier than usual. (Usually those hit in late July and into August.) Day time temperatures have been reaching from the mid-80’s well into mid-90’s. All this glorious heat and  left over rains from a typhoon that broke up over India has caused plants to grow, flower, and shatter all too quickly for the Northwest. One example is Primula florindae which has rocketed into bloom in a few short weeks. This primula is quite the graceful giant. I wish I had more room otherwise I would plant at least ten more of these primulas!

P. florinae a few days go when it was cool enough for dew drops to form.

Primula florinae a few days go when it was cool enough for dew drops to form.

Here they are today. I love how the tall graceful and slender stalks gently hold up the delicate bell flowers.

Here they are today. I love how the tall, graceful and slender stalks gently hold up the delicate bell flowers.

Oh I wish you could smell its soft, powdery fragrance rich with smooth nutmeg. Mmm!

Oh I wish you could smell its soft, powdery fragrance rich with smooth nutmeg. Mmm!

With this early hot weather Crocosmia ‘Gerbe d’Or’ is very confused. These perennial bulbs (corms, really) typically bloom mid summer through fall here in Seattle, but many crocosmias throughout the city are starting to bud or are in bloom – everyone is a month early!

Seriously, buds already?!

Seriously, buds already?!

My Fuchsia magellanica ‘Aurea’ has also started to bloom and she has overwintered very well and grown considerably from her initial 4 inch pot. I love her burning red sepals and black-purple petals against the cherry stems and chartreuse leaves – such a delicious combination! The hummingbirds in the the garden think so too.

I love simple design of species fuchsias; easy to mix with other plants and the colors can shine center stage.

I love simple design of species fuchsias; easy to mix with other plants and the colors can shine center stage.

Oh goodness, already out of time. Sorry for an uneventful post, but preparing for my fellowship to the UK is taking much more time that I previously thought. I promise a new post next week. Enjoy the sun, folks!

Here is a small section of the long plot this week that survived the deluges, the heat, and now the dry.

Here is a small section of the long plot this week that survived the deluges, the heat, and now the dry.

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