Sunday, June 26, 2016

New Garden Report

    After not writing my blog for a long time, I have decided to start again.  The main impetus for this is that I am finally acquiring enough new material in my new garden to have something to write about.  As I may have previously said, we moved from Bainbridge Island to a much smaller house and lot in Port Ludlow, Washington, which is a small resort community on the Olympic Penninsula,  not too far from the Hood Canal Bridge.  This location is somewhat cooler in the summer than Bainbridge Island, but not much colder in the winter.  It may get slightly less rainfall since we have been told that it is partially in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains.  I have seen little evidence of that, though. 
     The new house, being in a resort community, has all sorts of restrictions placed on what we are supposed to do with our landscaping,  so I am trying to work within those restrictions and not offend any of our neighbors.  So far everybody has seemed appreciative of what I have done.  The house was new construction on a half acre lot, although it had sat around empty for about 5 years because of the real estate crash.  There was some landscaping installed, including beds laid out and lawn.  There was also a sprinkler system.  So far I have not changed the layout of the beds and lawn (much), but I have removed almost all of the plants that were here.  There are still a few left, but I am planning to remove all those within the next few years.  So, since moving here about 2 and a half years ago I have spent a lot of time just removing the existing plants and amending the existing soil.  I have been using a mixture of 70% compost and 30% sand.  This mixture seems to be better for drainage than a pure compost, and drainage is important because I am trying to grow lots of drought tolerant plants.  I put this on top of the existing soil.  I found in my old garden that if you do this, instead of digging it in, the creatures in the soil will eventually do the work for you.  So far this has worked quite well in my new garden.  I think I have so far put down about 50 yards of this in the garden.
     This new garden is quite sunny.  I took out all trees which had been planted here--these included several Deodar Cedars, and several large maples, way too many trees for such a small area, anyway. So now there are no trees on the landscaped portion of the lot, except for two embothriums that I have planted, and a small Chief Joseph pine which will never get very large, or so I am told.  I have also planted two crepe myrtles in a bed up against our house.  I am not sure how these will do here, bloomwise, since we don't get much summer heat, and crepe myrtles require a certain amount of heat to bloom well.  So if these fail to perform, out they will go.  I have to keep reminding myself not to plant trees since I want the garden to remain sunny.  I should add that the back portion of our lot is forested and consists of a wetland within that forest, so we are not supposed to do any gardening there.
     The picture you see above is of a small bed in the front of the house that used to contain a weeping birch and many Viburnum davidiis.  Both of these kinds of plants are planted all over Port Ludlow.  I should add that I do not like Viburnum davidii.  It reminds me of freeway plantings.  So out they all came.  I have planted this bed with relatively small plants that I want to intermingle in a natural way.  I have planted a number of Yucca linearifolias and rostratas in the bed to provide some winter structure.  I also have a number of cold hardy opuntias here.  This year I also acquired a number of shrubby native penstemons which I have planted in this bed.  I will have a subsequent blog post about those.  I have planted a number of self sowing plants here also, including the coastal form of California poppy,  Anchusa capensis (the blue flower in the photo), and  Clarkia unguiculata.  I have also planted some lewisias and some gentians.  And I have planted some bulbs, including some alliums, calochortus and Anenome coronaria.  Other plants in the bed include an orange wallflower, Xerophyllum tenax, and Asclepias tuberosa.  As these plants settle in and get bigger I am sure I will have to do some editing.
     When I first started gardening I planted in a 'blocky' style where the plants were arranged in blocks of one type of plant.  I am not doing that in this garden.  I want the garden to look natural like these plants just found their way here and are growing in a wild manner.  I am not trying to color coordinate or even to alternate types of foliage.  I find that this type of gardening is very freeing, and I am enjoying myself, experimenting with all sorts of plants that are new to me.  So in subsequent blog entries I will tell you about how this experiment is going.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Schizanthus blooming in the potager at Heronswood
     Another one of the more successful annuals we are growing in the potager at Heronswood is Schizanthus.   This annual is native to Chile, and is a member of the solanaceae or nightshade family.  I have previously grown these in my garden on Bainbridge, and they had done well and bloomed for a very long time.  After reading about them on the internet, I conclude that they are particularly good in our climate, since they apparently don't like too much heat, and they don't require full sun to do well. 
     The one in the picture above is one we grew from a seed strain called 'Angel Wings',  which we obtained from Outsidepride.  This is, according to Wikipedia, a cross between S. pinnatus, and S. grahamii, called Schizanthus x. wisetonensis.  Unfortunately, it is a mixed color seed strain, and we got many plants with a very pale pink or almost white flower.  As I explained yesterday, I do not like to use those pale colors.  They just do not fit in with our color scheme in the potager.  What I would like is a seed strain with the color you see in the picture.  I searched the internet in vain, though, to find such a strain.  We may have to create our own at Heronswood.  We could call it the Heronswood strain of Schizanthus!
     We also purchased some plants of Schizanthus grahamii from Annies Annuals for the poatager.  If you click on the Annie's link you will see what that plant looks like.  Although the pictures of it are very attractive, I do not think it is as good a garden plant as those of the Angel Wings Strain (provided you have a plant in the right color) because the flowers are more sparse than those on the Angel Wings plants, and because it seems to have a shorter bloom time.  I do like S. grahamii, though, and I intend to get seed of it for next year, despite these differences. 
     In researching the question of whether there was a solid magenta color seed strain of Schizanthus, I came across pictures of Schizanthus litoralis here.  These pictures showed this species, which is a very attractive purplish pink color, covering a hillside in Chile.  So I have resolved to get seed of this species for next year.  I think I might be able to get seed from Chileflora.
     There are also a number of dwarf strains of Schizanthus on the market and those are usually what you find at most retail nurseries.  Those are fine for containers and baskets, but do not work so well in a situation such as the potager, where plants have to be taller than the hedges surrounding each bed.  Some of those dwarf strains come in straight colors instead of mixed color strains.  There are also some other seed strains, as evidenced by the Schizanthus offered in the Chiltern catalog.  I think we may have to try some of those seed strains next year. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Orange Is The New White aka Ursinia Anthemoides 'Solar Fire'


      Often when one mentions that a particular flower is bright orange, the first reaction of many gardeners is to recoil in horror.  I think this reaction is based first on the idea that used to be prevalent in garden writing that white and pastel gardens were tasteful, and that bright colors were low class, and second, on the idea that colors could be viewed in isolation, instead of being viewed in a painterly way, i.e., how a particular color contributes to the scene one is trying to create.  I should also state that I am not trying to be a color Nazi--anything I say about color is merely a reflection of my own taste.  I think everyone is entitled to their own taste when it comes to color.  There is no right or wrong in picking color--it is just what one finds to be attractive.
     With that said, what I am describing here is how I go about using color in the garden.  As it happens, and as regular readers of this blog probably know, I like bright colors that are (if you are familiar with photoshop) in the CMYK color space.  This means that I like saturated color that consists of lemony yellows, clear oranges, bright pinks/magentas, turqouise blues, and purples.  Since I like saturated colors, I don't like to use whites or pastels in my compositions.  I also don't like to use reds that are not on the pink side of the color wheel, and I don't like to use navy type blues. but clear sky blues are acceptable.  As for yellows, while I prefer lemon yellows to more orangy yellows, any type of saturated yellow is acceptable in a compostion.
     I should also say something here about the use of greens in my compositions.  When I first started gardening, and for a long time afterwords, I was enamored of variegated plants.  I have now mostly gotten over that, and the reason has mainly to do with how variegated plants 'read' in a compostiion.  White variegated plants often read as white, and, since I don't like to use white,  I have basically concluded that the white variegated plants, although individually attractive in many cases, do not enhance the garden pictures I am trying to create. So I stopped using them.  Yellow variegated plants, on the other hand, can read as yellow, and therefore, are more acceptable.  However, I have found that even they should be used in moderation, or else there will be too much yellow in the garden.   The same goes for yellow foliage plants--use them in moderation or the garden may OD on yellow.  As for red foliage,  I think that some in moderation is OK, but the brighter the red the better--otherwise, the eye just sees a dark dead space when it rests upon that foliage.  In my compositions, I like the vast majority of foliage to be bright green.  I find that that color is the background for everything else, and it sets off the other colors I like to use best.
     Anyway, this brings us to orange and Ursinia anthemoides 'Solar Fire'.  This is a plant that I was first introduced to by Annie's Annuals.  Their description of it is here.  This is a South African native, and you can read more about it at the Plantzafrica website here.  That site and also the Silverhill Seeds site (a seed company specializing in South African seeds) seem to indicate that the color of the flowers of Ursinia anthemoides can vary somewhat, but the plants we have grown all seem to be the bright orange seen in the pictures above.  Which is a good thing, in my opinion.  By the way, we grew our Heronswood plants from seed we got from Outsidepride, and I would recommend them as a source--they send a lot of seed in a packet, in a timely manner, and it germinated well.
     These Ursinias have these bright orange daisy flowers which bloom for a very long time above attractive ferny foliage.  As is evident from the pictures above, they seem to go well with all other colors in the Potager, and indeed, they seem to make those other colors pop.  And that is why I titled this blog entry 'Orange Is The New White'!  It used to be that writers on color in the garden always spouted the nonsense that one had to have white in the garden in order to have a place to 'rest the eyes'.  What does that even mean?  How many paintings or other works of art require white as a place to 'rest the eyes'?  If you need such a place (and I doubt that you do) isn't the orange of Ursinia anthemoides 'Solar Fire' a much better resting place?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Heronswood Potager Project Report

Potager at Heronswood with delphiniums
Ursinia anthemoides

Petunia integrifolia with Ursinia anthemoides

Calendulas starting to bloom in the potager

Schizanthus with Ursinia

    Those of you who see my Facebook posts know that I have been working at Heronswood on a project to create a planting scheme in the Potager.  As many of you already know, the potager is a section at Heronswood that was originally created for a vegetable garden.  It consists of 8 beds, in a geometric pattern, each surrounded by a dwarf boxwood hedge.  Most of these 8 beds are in full sun, although 2 of them are a little bit more shaded than the others.  There were 4 large clumps of edible rhubarb in 4 of these beds, and in the other 4, there were established cardoons.  It was decided to leave these existing plants in place, although I think that it has now been decided that these will be removed for next year.  The rhubarb looks bad later in the summer, so it does not help the picture we are trying to create, while the cardoons seem to not be doing so well, and they also need to be cut back at a time when the rest of the plantings should be going strong.
     So, to get to the point, the plan for the potager is to create a wildflower meadow look, using annuals we have grown from seed.  We also bought some plants from Annie's Annuals just so we could get the beds going earlier than if we just planted our own seedlings.  Structure was to be provided by planting Musa Sikkimensis in each of the beds which would provide a nice big broad leafed contrast to the fine and fussy foliage of the annuals.  Dan Hinkley gave divisions from his plant to the garden for this purpose, and they are all growing happily now, albeit still small.
     All the delphiniums that I had at Froggy Bottom, and which I wrote about here and here, have been brought to Heronswood and planted in these beds. These have done so well and are so spectacular that plans are afoot to grow more of them from seed and plant more in these beds for next year.  We have also planted in excess of 200 orienpet lilies (I described these here) in these beds, both to act as stakes for the delphiniums, which I previously described here, and to add even more punch to these borders.  Once these lilies get going (they will not reach their full size for another year or two), it should be like walking into a fragrant forest of lilies when entering the potager in lily season!
     We devised a slightly different scheme for the 2 more shady beds, involving using aconitums instead of delphiniums, and planting divisions of Hedychium 'Tara' (previously described here) from Froggy Bottom.  We did not think the delphiniums would do well in the shade of those beds, but we have now revised our view, realizing that those two beds are sunnier than first thought.  So delphiniums will go there next year, instead of the aconitums.  We also thought that the annuals would not do well in those two beds because of the shade, but we are now realizing that they will do just fine.  We found that out because we planted many of them in those two beds, and they grow and bloom, despite its being less sunny than in the other beds.
      As for the annuals we are growing, a conscious decision was made to use as many west coast natives as would meet our criteria as we could.  Therefore, more than half the annuals we are growing are California (and maybe Oregon and Washington) natives.  It is actually hard to find annuals that are native to the Kitsap Pennisula.  I do not even know if there are any.
      You may ask what our criteria for choosing these annuals were.  Well, first of all, they had to be between one and three feet tall to grow up above the boxwood hedges. Second,  they had to be plants that would commingle well.  Finally, they had to be in jewel tones with a fairly even spread between yellows/oranges, blues/purples, and pinks/magentas.  No whites allowed!  Anyway, this post is getting to be too long as it is, so I will have a post another day describing exactly which seeds we ordered and how I think they have done.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Eriogonum umbellatum 'Sulphur Yellow"

Eriogonum umbellatum 'Shasta Sulphur' in my new garden
     Those of you who have spent hours studying the offerings on the Annie's Annuals website, as I have, probably know that Annie's offers a number of eriogonums, commonly known as buckwheats.  Although I wasn't familiar with these until I ordered some from Annie's a couple of years ago, it appears that the eriogonums are a very large genus, second only to penstemons in the number of species for North American natives.  They are native almost all over the United States except in the northeast.  If you are interested in butterflies, it appears that eriogonums are plants to have in your garden.  There are a number of eriogonums that are hosts for butterflies, some of them endangered butterflies, as described here
     Late last summer I ordered some of these plants from Annie's, including three of the one in the picture above, Eriogonum umbellatum 'Shasta Sulphur'.  The description of the plant, along with better pictures than I have, is here.  Since I foolishly ordered these very late in the summer, and I didn't get around to planting them, they stayed in their Annie's pots all winter, out in the cold and rain, with no protection whatsoever.  I was amazed to see that they made it through the winter unscathed, and now that I have planted them, they are flowering and doing well.
     According to the Annie's blurb, they make a tidy mound of evergreen foliage 1 foot high and 3 feet across and have these sulpher yellow flowers starting in the spring and lasting until late summer.  That sounds pretty good to me!  The shade of yellow of the flowers is another quality that I particularly like.  It is the sort of yellow that makes blues, pinks and oranges just pop. 
     I have ordered a couple more eriogonums and in the future I will report to you on how they have done.  In the meantime, if you are interested, you can check out the website of the Eriogonum Society.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tropaeolum polyphyllum report

Tropaeolum polyphyllum with pink California poppies
     I have previously posted about Tropaeolum polyphyllum here and here, and today I am going to report on what has been happening in that bed near the lionness at Froggy Bottom where I have this exquisite plant.  First of all, I have been excavating in the bed, trying to find tubers of the tropaeolum so that I can have some for the new garden.  As I said in my earlier posts, this plant is hard to find in nurseries, and so I particularly needed to dig up some tubers.  I did manage to find some, but let me tell you, they are not all that easy to find! Anyway, even though that digging seemed to commit mayhem in this area, by now, you could hardly tell that any digging had been done.  I think this tropaeolum is the sort of plant that is somewhat difficult to get started in a garden, but once it is, it is pretty much there to stay. 
     Other developments in this bed are that the pink California poppies that I had wanted to get started here have, in fact, been established, and I think they go well with the tropaeolum flowers.  They will have the added bonus of extending the season in the bed because they will bloom longer than the tropaeolum, and they will bloom again if cut back after their first bloom.  You can see that an orange flowered poppy has also invaded the bed.  That is what happens with these poppies, I have found.  Other colors sometimes pop up, particularly if you have a number of different color strains in your garden like I do.
     Other plants in this bed include Scilla peruviana, which I previously wrote about here.  You can see one of the last of these blooms in the upper left hand corner of the photo.  This year the bloom time of the scillas was earlier than that of the tropaeolum, and I suspect that will almost always be the case.  I also planted some Yucca linearifolias in this bed and you can see one of them in the upper left of the picture.  Finally, some alstromerias which I wrote about here have seeded themselves into this bed and in a few years will probably take it over, unless something is done about them.  I haven't yet decided what I will do with them, if anything.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

More Eremurus

Front Border at Froggy Bottom with Eremurus 'Spring Valley Hybrids'
     I previously wrote about Eremurus here, and I can't praise this great plant enough! While it is blooming, there are very few plants that match its magnificence.  Although I have taken a lot of the eremurus in this border to my new garden, there are still enough left to make quite an impact.  The ones in the picture above came from Brent and Becky's Bulbs or McClure and Zimmerman as their Spring Valley Hybrids.  There is also an orange eremurus to the left in the picture that you can see poking up behind the Nolina foliage.  That one is called Cleopatra, and it is commonly found in bulb supplier's catalogs.  It is not quite as tall as some of the others I have grown, although its color makes a standout in any garden.
     Other plants in this picture include Nolina nelsonii (on the left in the picture), Dasylirion wheeleri in the bottom center, Nasella tenuissima, Papaver somniferum, Salvia nemerosa (a cultivar that I lost the name of--but I think it is better than the usual), Echium vulgare (the blue flowered plant),  Onopordum ancanthium, the tall grey plant on the upper right. and Verbascum bomyciferm.  This is a border that is loved by the bees, and this year many of them seem to be busy with these flowers.  I love it!  I should mention that although the echium is supposed to be a noxious weed, it is considered by many to be one of the best bee plants around, and the honey from this plant is supposed to be excellent.  While I don't want to get hate mail, I sometimes question the whole noxious weed control zeitgeist.  If you don't like my philosophy on this, please do not post any comments, as I will probably delete them.
     Another point to make about this border is that it did not come about overnight.  It has taken many years of experimenting with various plants and many years of allowing self sowers to become established to achieve this result.  In my view no garden is really good until it has been established for awhile.  Sure, given enough money you can make something that might look presentable in its first or second year, but that is not the same as establishing what is essentially a self sustaining community of compatible plants that, by the way, look beautiful together.  This kind of gardening, and not the instant pictures so popular on TV makeover shows, is what I find interesting.  Anyway, enough with the ranting for today!