Monday, August 15, 2016

Erigeron Glaucus 'Wayne Roderick"

Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' in my garden
      There are a few plants that I have resolved to buy many more of for next year in my garden.  Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' is one of those.  For the curious, the others are Allium 'Millenium', which I will have an entry about soon, and Agastache 'Sonoran Sunset' which I wrote about not too long ago in this blog.  Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' is a form of a California native seaside daisy.   It grows with an evergreen base of foliage, fairly low to the ground, and then the daisies themselves are about a foot high over the foliage.  The evergreen base is supposed to be utlimately about 2 to 3 feet in diameter.  According to the blurb from Annie's Annuals this plant is tough, easy, deer resistant, drought tolerant, and attractive to native bees.  What more could you ask for?
     I have now grown this plant for two years, and I find it lives up to that hype.  If the flowers are deadheaded it blooms all summer.  It's evergreen base stays nice and neat all year round.  Its flowers, while not the stars of the garden, are very pleasing secondary players in the garden,  mixing well with other plants and colors.  In my previous garden I had grown an erigeron that I have now forgetten the name of.  It was not this one, though, and I concluded then that it was too weedy.  For that reason I had steered clear of erigerons until now.  'Wayne Roderick' has made me change my mind about this group of plants, and I may grow some others in the future.  One is particular that I am looking at is Erigeron speciosus 'Darkest of All'.  This is a form of Pacific Northwest native with darker purple flowers. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Lomatium Columbianum

Lomatium columbianum plants at Rowena, near the Dalles, Oregon

Path through Lomatium columbianum plants with balsam root and lupines at Rowena

Lomatium columbianum seedheads

Lomatium columbianum flowers

     One of the native plants of which I am currently enamored is Lomatium columbianum, aka the Columbia Desert Parsley.  This plant is endemic to the easterly parts of the Columbia gorge, meaning that is only place in the world in which it is naturally found.  It can be seen in great abundance if one visits Rowena, near the Dalles Oregon when the wildflowers are blooming.  A description of Rowena can be found here.  I visited there this last April when the balsam root and lupines were in bloom, but as you can see from the images above, taken during that trip, this lomatium was pretty much through blooming by that time.  So, it can be concluded that this Lomatium comes up relatively early in the spring and finishes blooming well before many other springtime plants.  It has probably adopted this strategy because it grows in a fairly arid climate, and it grows and blooms when there is adequate moisture, and then, like many of our western natives, it goes dormant for the summer.
     In my opinion this plant is one of our most beautiful native plants, and it puzzles me why it is not more commonly offered for sale.  It is not a difficult plant to grow,  but it does require well drained soil, and it does have a growth habit that requires some advanced planning in deciding where to grow it.  This growth habit is as I have already mentioned, i.e., it starts its growth early and then goes dormant in the summer, meaning it disappears from the garden in the summer.  Furthermore, as you can see from the pictures above, a mature plant of this is not tiny.  It can be up to a couple of feet tall and several feet in diameter.   So one must plan for an ultimately large plant, which then leaves a bare spot in the garden.  This growth habit, however is not unique to this Lomatium.  Ferula communis, the giant fennel,which is a much more commonly grown plant (also in the same family as Lomatium columbianum) from the Mediterranean has a similar growth pattern, yet that does not deter people from growing it (or maybe it does).  One just has to figure out plants which will fill in the holes left by the Lomatium's dormancy.  Possibilities are various annuals or various bulbs. such as Tigridias.  Indeed,  if one has successfully grown Ferula communis, then I would surmise that one can successfully grow Lomatium columbianum, and in much the same conditions.
     As you can see from the pictures above, one of the most striking things about this plant is its very blue, feathery foliage.  Even if it never flowered, its foliage alone would make it worth growing.  The flowers, in my opinion are a bonus, and the fact that they are (usually) a deep, dark pink is the icing on the cake.  The picture of the flower in my image above is not a very good one, because the flowering season was almost over when I took it.  If you google this plant, you will be treated to many better images of the flowers,  some of which can be found here.  I have been told that the flower color can be somewhat variable.  Some of the flowers are a deep rich magenta, almost, while others can be a washed out pink.  So I would hope some aspiring plant breeders could perhaps develop a strain of darker flowered Lomatium columbianums for the good of mankind!
     I have grown this plant for a few years now in my garden. They can be acquired from Far Reaches and from Humble Roots Nursery.  They are also grown by Seven Oaks Native Nursery, a wholesale native plant nursery in Albany, Oregon.  I have found that it takes them several years in the ground to reach maturity, so one must be patient.  That was also my experience with the Ferula which I mentioned above.  Also, as I mentioned above, they should be planted in full sun in well drained soil.  They should also be protected from slugs when they first come up, since the slugs can devour all their new growth overnight, it seems. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Agastache cana 'Sinning' (aka 'Sonoran Sunset')

Agastache cana 'Sinning' (aka Sonoran Sunset) in my garden

A wider view with an unknown Echinacea

An even wider view with delphiniums, melianthus and restio

     I have grown quite a few agastaches over the years, and I even bloggged about one previously, here.  I have planted several agastaches in my new garden since they fit in with the look I am going for, they are drought tolerant, and deer resistant.  Also, the hummingbirds like them and that is always a plus.  I should add that my new garden is completely open to whatever critters we might have around here, which include not only deer, but rabbits, coyotes, bear, raccoons, bobcats, and even mountain lions.  Not that most of those will eat my plants, but the deer and rabbits certainly are a threat.  So plants which critters do not like are also a plus, and generally they do not bother agastaches.
     The particular agastache I am talking about here is Agastache cana 'Sinning' (aka 'Sonoran Sunset').  This is a Plant Select plant, and you can read what they have to say about it here.  I acquired three of these late last summer from Flowers By The Sea, a mail order nursery specializing in salvias, and also other plants which hummingbirds like.  I should mention that they send very good plants, and are to be recommended.  A quick google search reveals that there are a number of other mail order nurseries which also carry this agastache.  It could be sold either under the name 'Sinning' or the name 'Sonoran Sunset'.
     Although I do not recommend planting these sorts of dryland plants here in the fall, these did quite well over the winter.  Their foliage stayed good, practically unblemished (although we had a mild winter, so this might not be the case in a colder winter), and once spring arrived and they started to grow, their foliage continued to look good.  I should mention that good foliage is not something agastaches are generally known for.  They made full, relatively compact shrub like growth, and now they are putting on their floral show, and, as you can see from the images above, it is a good show.  So, I have to conclude, based admittedly on my very short experience with this plant, that it is the best agastache ever!  Hopefully I will not have to eat my words based on further experience.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Phacelia campanularia

Phacelia campanularia in my garden

Phacelia campanularia in Joshua Tree National Park

Phacelia campanularia with other wildflowers in Joshua Tree

Wildflowers in Joshua Tree near Cottonwood Springs with Phacelia campanularia (the blue flowers)

     I have been growing more and more annuals in my garden, mostly west coast natives, and one that I particularly like is Phacelia campanularia.  This is a California native,  found in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts.  While there are many Phacelias native to the west coast, and while I have not seen them all, of those that I am familiar with,  P. campanularia seems to me to be the most attractive.  It sports electric blue flowers, which, on a well grown plant, pretty much cover it, making it really pop in the landscape, as you can see from the images above of it growing in Joshua Tree National Park.   I have grown one other Phacelia, P. viscida, but I find campanularia to be the more attractive plant, both by reason of its flowers as well as its growth habit.  Viscida is not bad, but campanularia is better.  Also, viscida has proven to be a prolific self sower in my garden, so much so that some would call it a nuisance.
     I must make a confession here, though, and that is that so far I have not been very successful with this plant.  The one you see in the picture at the top that bloomed in my garden constitutes the sum total of my success with it.  I have come to the conclusion that this is because this plant does not really like to grow in pots, and when it is transplanted from a pot it never gets its roots properly established to perform well.  I have recently sown seeds of this and they readily germinate, given water, and so I am experimenting with how they do grown from seeds directly sown in the garden.  I will let you know how that goes.
     As for the growing conditions that Phacelia campanularia likes, I would guess that well drained soil in full sun would be best.  However, in order to get the plants going from seed, some water needs to be applied.  Since these are annuals, and since in their natural habitat they sprout, grow, flower and die in a very short time period, I think they probably can be sowed several times in our climate for successive flowerings.  My guess is that they would not appreciate a very humid climate, but this is only a guess. 
     Plants of this can be purchased from Annie's Annuals and I have also seen them at Xera Plants in Portland, Oregon.  Seeds can be gotten from Larner Seeds and Outside Pride.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Native Plants


Balsamroot and lupines at Columbia Hills State Park
Flower tapestry including castillejas and penstemons at Johnston Ridge, Mt. St. Helens
Flower field at Johnston Ridge, Mt. St. Helens
Flower field at Crater Lake
Phlox, lupines, and balsamroot at Columbia Hills State Park
Penstemons and castillejas at Crater Lake
Lewisia rediviva in my garden
Flower tapestry at Johnston Ridge, Mt. St. Helens
Calochortus on the John Day River, Oregon
Close Up of Calochortus on the John Day River
Castillejas, balsamroot and delphiniums at Rowena near The Dalles, Oregon
Lupines and Balsamroot at Rowena
Dichelostemma Pink Diamond in my garden
Lupines and balsamroot at Rowena
Mimulus lewisii at Crater Lake
Mimulus lewisii close up
Pacific Coast Iris Hybrid in my garden
Penstemon barretiae at Derby Canyon Natives in Peshatin, Washington
Penstemon rupicola in my garden

     I am growing more and more native plants in my new garden.  For those people who have known me for a long time, this is something new, since I have, in the past, been a champion of exotic plants from all over the world.  And I still like those exotic plants, and I still have many of them in my new garden.  But in my travels around the western United States, I have discovered that there is a wealth of beauty in our native plants, and that many of these plants are hard to come by in the nursery trade.  To me, that represents a new challenge in gardening!
     When I refer to native plants, I generally mean plants which are native to the western United States.  If a plant is native to Washington and Oregon, so much the better, but I don't want to limit myself to just those places in my search for beautiful, garden worthy plants.  I know there are some who think we should put blinders on and look only at plants which have historically grown on the little patch of land which is our garden, but I think that approach is not only boring, but it ignores all the great, beautiful plants which might thrive on our little patch.  I am limiting myself right now mainly to those plants which are native to the western United States simply because I am looking for drought tolerant plants, and this is the area which has those kinds of plants.  But if I find a plant from the Great Plains, for example, which will thrive and be beautiful in my new garden, I will also want that plant.
     In future blog posts I will talk about some of these plants and my experiences in growing them.  Some of the ones I am particularly enamored of presently include penstemons, particularly the shrubby ones, castillejas which I have already written about here,  lewisias,  various bulbs including calochortus and dichelostemma, Lomatium columbianum, astragalus, oxytropsis, Pacific Coast Iris, opuntias, and balsamroot.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Dierama

Close Up of Dierama flowers

Backlit dieramas in my garden

     In my old garden I tried unsuccessfully a number of times to grow dieramas.  I didn't succeed with them there until I created a bed by adding 10 yards of sandy loam to a sunny bed right outside the front door.  This was a bed that didn't get any supplemental water in the summer, and the sandy loam was indeed very sandy.  I planted a Dierama pulcherimum there which I had purchased at Dancing Oaks.  This was in a 4 inch band pot, yet one year after planting it, it had bulked up in a gratifying manner and had even flowered.  In the past when I had planted dieramas they had sulked until they finally died.  So I can only conclude that they didn't much care for my compost rich, moist beds in the rest of my old garden.
     I believe it was in the third year that I had this plant from Dancing Oaks that I dug it up and divided it into 5 or 6 sections to move to my new garden.  Dieramas grow from what look like corms, and they are very easy to divide.  In any event, the plants you see in the pictures above are those divisions.  I planted them in a mass in my new garden, not out of any design principle, but merely to get them in the ground.  It was my intention to spread them out more after I had finished preparing the garden soil in my new garden.  As you can see, I have not gotten around to doing that, and I may never get around to it.  These plants, which were small divisions when planted, have bulked up nicely.  This is the third year they have been in this new garden.
     A little googling will reveal that there are many different species of dieramas, as this article on the Pacific Bulb Society's website explains.  Dierama pulcherimum is a southern African species, as are most of the dieramas.  Although the one I have is pastel pink, there are darker pink, and, indeed, almost purple forms of this plant.  I might, in the future, acquire a darker pink one, but I am not sure I like the darkest forms because they do not show up as well in the garden.  Many people do covet those dark forms, however.  I have noticed recently some very interesting dieramas at Far Reaches Farm, including a number in their display garden.  I might just have to acquire some of those.
     Dieramas are usually evergreen, with a grass like foliage base.  In a harsh winter this foliage base may appear pretty beat up and brown, and it is perfectly ok to cut it back just like you would cut back a grass.  This is best done in the spring, just as new growth is starting in.  This past winter was so mild that the foliage looked good and I did not have to cut it back.
     From a design perspective, dieramas should be placed where their dangling flowers can best be appreciated.  That I why I thought it would be better to place them throughout the garden, so they would act as accent plants, and their form could be appreciated.  However, I have now concluded that they do not look bad in a mass, even though I never would have thought so before.  I have planted each one about a foot and a half to two feet from their neighbors.  In between I have planted some Anchusa azurea.  This is a plant which blooms before the dieramas, and which is cut back after bloom, so by the time the dieramas bloom, the anchusa is just a neat rosette at ground level.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Calochortus







     I am growing more native plants in my new garden, and I will be having a blog post on that subject in the future.  One of these is calochortus, which is a bulb native to much of the western United States. There are approximately 70 species of these, according to Wikipedia, although very few of them are available for sale anywhere.  You can, however, buy a few types of bulbs of these from the big bulb suppliers.  That is what I did last fall--I ordered a color mix of calochortus venustus (I think) from Brent and Becky's Bulbs, but I must confess that I didn't get around to planting them until February of this year.  That late planting did not seem to faze them, and the pictures above are all of those bulbs.  By the way, these bulbs can be had for not too much money so it is mystery to me why more people do not grow them. 
     I planted these in the little bed in front of my house.  That bed is mounded and has fairly sandy soil.  It is in full sun.  These are the sorts of conditions that calochortus like.  In the places they grow in the west, they would be dry in the summer, although I am pretty sure that a little sprinkler action will not kill them.  You certainly would not want them to be completely soaking wet all summer after they have gone dormant, though.  I grew some of these in the front border of my old garden for many years, in an area that received no supplemental water in the summer, and they did quite well there.
     I recently acquired some Calochortus tolmiei from Seven Oaks Native Nursery in Albany, Oregon.  Seven Oaks is a wholesale nursery which grows many unusual native plants.  In addition to tolmiei they grow other calochortus, and I am sure I will be acquiring some of those others in the future.  Another good source for calochortus is Telos Rare Bulbs.  I will probably be ordering some from her in the future.  I would recommend her blog post on calochortus.
     Calochortus can be seen growing wild in many part of the west.  I belong to two Facebook groups, one for California wildflowers, and the other for Oregon wildflowers, and both of these groups have constant postings of beautiful pictures of calochortus.  These bulbs come in many different forms and colors and I am constantly amazed at their variety.  Even though there are these many forms and species of calochortus, there does not seem to be much seed being collected, nor much growing of these plants commercially except for what I have mentioned above.  I would hope that gardeners in the west would realize how great these natives are and attempt to grow them. 
     Calochortus have sort of long skinny foliage and stems, so they grow very easily through other plants or among grasses.  That is the way they grow in the wild.   They mingle very easily with other plants in the garden, particularly those that enjoy similar conditions.