Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ranunculus Lyallii

Ranunculus lyallii in flower at Froggy Bottom in 2008

Closeup of Ranunculus lyallii leaf

Baby Ranunculus lyallii recently acquired from Far Reaches Farm
     There is a triumvirate of plants from New Zealand that always seem to me to be the holy grail of  difficult to grow, but lusted after plants.  These are Aciphyllas, which I previously wrote about here, Celmisias, which I have yet to write about (I have not successfully grown these, yet),  and last, Ranunculus lyallii.  This ranunculus is commonly known as the Mt. Cook lily, and it is the world's largest buttercup.  The leaves, as you can see from the pictures above are large and round with a somewhat leathery texture.  These leaves have been recorded over a foot across in some cases. 
     I previously wrote about another buttercup family member from South Africa, Ranunculus baurii here, and although the leaves on that plant are somewhat similar to the leaves of R. lyallii, they are not quite as large, nor do they have the leathery substance of the R. lyallii.  In addition, the flowers of R. lyallii are more attractive in that they are the white ones pictured above, held in a very attractive way over the plant.  On R. baurii, the flowers are small yellow dandelion looking ones, and not very attractively held, in my opinion.
     So the main questions in a plant nerd's mind, on learning about this plant is (1) how to acquire it and (2) how to grow it.  Acquiring it is not easy.  I got the plant pictured above from Far Reaches Farm because I had the foresight to buy seed from Jelitto a few years ago and then give it to Far Reaches.  They managed to get a few plants going from that seed batch, and hence the plant you see in the picture in the pot.  They don't have many, and I doubt if they have any for sale, but it would not hurt to inquire if you are interested.  The big plant you see in the top picture came from Skagit Gardens (I think),  7 or 8 years ago.  They apparently grew lots of them and sold them to retail nurseries in the local area.  You can imagine my surprise when I saw these (well grown, large plants) for sale at local retail nurseries, as if they were common ordinary plants!  So of course, I bought mass quantities of them and planted them in various parts of my garden.  I found that they did the best in good garden soil that was well watered and well drained.  Also, they liked full sun.  These grew well for about 5 years in my garden, and even self sowed, but one year I had to neglect my garden so it wasn't watered all summer, and then we had a cold winter after that, and that was the end of these plants.
     Even before I had acquired these plants from Skagit Gardens, I had gotten some of them from (where else?) Heronswood.  These were much smaller plants, and when I planted them I didn't know much about how to grow them, so I planted them in a woodland part of the garden.  They didn't thrive there, although they lived there for a long time--at least 6 or 7 years.  I even divided them on one occasion and they tolerated that quite well.  They never flowered growing in the shade, however.  When you see pictures of these growing in their native habitat in New Zealand, such as here, you can see why shade might not be their preferred situation, since they appear to be growing totally out in the open, with no trees nearby.
    So how best to grow these?  I would say give them an open position in good, but well drained soil (this seems to be the recipe for all these finicky New Zealanders).  They might appreciate growing beside a big rock, or even better in a crevice (if you have such a thing in your garden), although that is not how I grew them at Froggy Bottom since I didn't have many big rocks there.  They need summer water in our climate.  In a very cold winter they might appreciate some cover.  They would probably also do well in the skirts of some other plant which could provide them winter protection, as long as that other plant was not so big as to shade them too much.
     Failing to find these for sale in nurseries, which is almost certain, you must be prepared to grow them from seed if you want them.  As I mentioned before, they are available from Jelitto, and that is where I would recommend you get your seed.  You can find them from other sources such as New Zealand Tree, but I have found that Jelitto seeds are almost always good and that they germinate well, provided their instructions are followed.  These seeds usually require a period of cold stratification and Jelitto provides detailed instructions on this.  They should be grown in a gritty mix, and you must protect the seedlings from slugs. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pictures From Kauai

Anini Beach Sunset

Waimea Canyon

Sleeping Giant Sunset

Hanalei Pier Sunset

Another Kauai Sunset

Closeup of Kauai Sunset
     Well, I am back from Kauai, but am still having trouble getting back to gardening, so I thought I would give you some of the photos I took on our trip.  As you can see, I like taking shots at sunset--I never did get up early enough to take any sunrise shots this trip.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Off To Kauai!

Taro Fields at dawn near Hanalei on Kauai
     We are off to Kauai tomorrow for two weeks, leaving in the midst of a big rain and wind storm here.  We will be staying at Princeville on the north shore of Kauai so it will probably be raining there, too, but at least it will be a warm rain! The shot I have posted is one I took last time we were there.  The sky actually was that color. The locals said it was because of volcanic particulates in the air.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Big Pot

Big pot on the back terrace

  Today I am showing you a picture of a very large pot which I purchased from Aw Pottery recently because the stager for our house thought there should be a big pot outside one of the bedroom windows.  Although the picture does not adequately convey how big this pot is, let me assure you that it is huge.   And I planted it in a style I usually do not use with pots.  Usually I put just one plant in a pot because my garden is filled with so many plant combinations that I have never felt the need to add to them with elaborately planted pots. 
     Anyway, I got this pot around the first of August, and since I had to fill it quickly, I went to Valley Nursery, a very good nursery in Poulsbo.  Luckily, they had a good selection of summer bedding plants and tropicals which were on sale at 50% off.  So what you see is the result of cramming some of those plants into this pot and letting them grow for less than 2 months now.  I think it did pretty well, if I do say so myself.
     At the top of the heap are three black colocasias, which I love.  The yellow foliage is a salvia, there are some black sweet potato vines and there are some begonias.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chusquea Couleou Seedlings

Chusquea couleou seedlings in my garden now
     I previously wrote about the Chusquea couleou 'Chilean Straight' that was blooming in my garden here.  It was looking dead, so it was cut down, but now in the bed under it, I just noticed what looked like a bunch of broadleafed grass seedlings coming up, and then it dawned on me that these were seedlings from the Chusquea.  How cool is that?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Yucca Gloriosa 'Variegata'

Patch of Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata' growing in my front border
     This is the third and final chapter in my Yucca series. Yesterday and the day before, I highlighted the best in the genus, in my opinion, Yucca rostrata and Yucca linearifolia.  I have grown a number of of other yuccas from time to time in my garden, but the only other one I now have is this one in the picture (although, as I will discuss below, I have some others that were labeled Yucca aloifolia, I am not at all sure they are not Yucca gloriosa).
     Anyway, the ones in the picture--there are probably 8 or 9 of them planted en mass in this area--came to me as tissue cultured liners from Terra Nova more than 10 years ago when I still ran my little nursery called Froggy Bottom.  For those who are not familiar with  plant nursery jargon, a liner is just a tiny plant which is then potted up to a larger pot and grown until it fills out the larger pot for sale in a retail nursery.  Tissue cultured plants are sold as liners to wholesale nurseries which then grow them on and sell them to retail nurseries, and they are marked up in price at each step of the way.  If you can use 32 plants of a single variety, then buying a liner tray of them is certainly the cheapest way to get them.  But, like with Costco, you have to buy large quantities to get the savings.  And you have to be willing to grow them on to larger sizes before planting them in the ground.
     But enough of that interesting (or not) sidelight--on the the main topic of Yucca gloriosa.  These yuccas are growing in a location in my front border that had terrible, compacted soil, that dried out in the summer, but that was fairly waterlogged in winter.  Yet despite these hardships, these plants have prospered.  Yucca gloriosa, being a native of the South Eastern US is adapted to coping with wet, more so than many other yuccas.
     I planted so many of them in this spot because I had that many of them and at that stage in my gardening career I was into mass plantings of one type of plant.  As it turns out, while the effect looks pretty good, it is a big mistake to plant these yuccas en mass because you will probably put your eye out sometime when you are weeding under them.  The leaves on these are wicked sharp.  Another problem with these yuccas is that the dead leaves have to be cut off periodically or else they start to look really shabby.  Doing this is yet another way to impale yourself.  I should also mention that once you have a plant of this established in your garden, it is virtually impossible to get rid of because it will regrow from any bit of root left in the ground.  Indeed, if you have a plant that has gotten too big or ugly, a good way to rejuvenate it is to cut it down to the ground and wait a few years. 
     In the picture you see the blooms on these which are starting out.  While the flowers are really spectacular, albeit of the dreaded white variety, usually the deer wait until they are poised to open and then they eat them.
     I have some other yuccas in my garden which look just like these but they were sold to me as Yucca aloifolia 'Variegata'.  While I am no yucca expert, I have read here that Yucca aloifolia differs from Yucca gloriosa in that Yucca aloifolia has marginal spines on the leaves and a brown sharp terminal spike, which my plants do not have.  I have also had conversations with Sean Hogan concerning the identity of these plants, and he was not at all sure that they were different species.
     When I was first starting my garden almost 20 years ago, I bought a Yucca at B&B Cactus in Tuscon that was labeled Yucca aloifolia 'Marginata'.  A picture of that plant, taken by my friend Terry Moyemont in my garden may be found here.  I loved that plant and it looked good for many years until one snowy day when my husband backed his car into it and caused vehicular horticide.  That was the end of that plant, although it may live on at Cistus, since Sean took some portions of its roots to propagate from.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Yucca Linearifolia 'Dusky Blue'

Young Yucca linearifolia 'Dusky Blue' surrounded by colchicums in my front border
     I have previously mentioned, here and here, that I grow Yucca linearifolia in several places in my garden.  This is a very choice yucca, apparently related to Yucca rostrata, except that the leaves are narrower and more succulent.  This yucca was first discovered in the 1980's by the Peckerwood and Yucca Do guys on one of their many forays into Mexico, and according to the Yucca Do catalog, it is prospering at Peckerwood Garden and has reached a height of 5 ft. there.  For those who don't know, Peckerwood is a famous Texas garden, now under the Garden Conservancy umbrella, I believe.  I have never been there, but have seen many pictures of it, and it is one of the gardens at the top of my list to see.
     Anyway, Sean Hogan, being the Yucca King, had some good looking, albeit small plants of this yucca for sale a few years ago when I stopped at Cistus as I was passing through Portland one day, and so, of course, I bought 5 of them.  These were labeled Yucca linearifolia 'Dusky Blue', which must mean that they are a selection which has bluer foliage than the usual, although that is just a guess.
      I gave one to my sister who lives in Salem, and planted the rest in my garden. One went into the front border and the rest I planted near the lionness sculpture.  That was about 3 years ago, and so the plant you see in the picture is the growth after that time, and you can see that it is advancing at a good rate.  I would guess that they should start showing some trunk in a year or two.  I should add that the one in my sister's garden is significantly bigger than mine, which just illustrates the greater heat available to plants in the Willamette Valley as compared to here.  Most plants in her garden seem to grow at a slightly faster rate than in mine (and she is not secretly fertilizing them).  Indeed, just about the only plants that might do better here are the more cool loving New Zealanders, such as Aciphyllas and Myosotidiums, and  of course, Meconopsis.