Tuesday, April 30, 2013

First Cypripedium of the Season

Cypripedium hybrid blooming in my garden now

Closeup of Cyprepidium flower
     The first cypripedium of the season is blooming now in my garden!  I have previously posted about cyprepidiums here.  This particular cyp. is a hybrid I got from Plant Delights 5 or 6 years ago and I have lost the tag so I don't know precisely which one it is.  But whichever one it is, it's pretty nice, don't you think?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Palms in the Garden

Three of the Trachycarpus fortuneis in the garden

I planted this Trachycarpus as an infant palm with no trunk. This is its size after about 18 years.

One of the Trachycarpuses in bloom with the foliage of Schefflera delavayi in front.

Trachycarpus with a riot of flowers growing around it.
     I love palms and have tried just about every palm which is reputed to be hardy here.  After many years of heartbreak, I have come to the conclusion that the only really good reliable palms for this climate are some of the Trachycarpuses, also commonly known as the Chinese windmill palm.  I now have in my garden some 16 large mature Trachycarpuses.  Three of these are Trachycarpus wagnerianus, which is much sought by palm collectors and palm nerds;  two of them are Trachycarpus takil (I think) which I got from Heronswood many years ago, and all the rest are the usual Trachycarpus fortunei.
      I have to say that unless you are truly an expert in palm identification, you cannot tell the difference between the three types.  Trachycarpus wagnerianus has somewhat smaller leaves than the usual type and is a little neater in appearance than the usual type.  This may be an advantage when the palm is small, but on my now over 10 foot tall specimen, it just means that the top foliage seems slightly out of proportion to the size of the plant.  Not that most people would even notice. 
     As for Trachycarpus takil, the foliage seems a little bigger than usual, but, again, most people would not even notice.  Since generally you pay a premium for the less usual T. wagnerianus and T. takil, if I were planting palms now, I wouldn't even bother to find them.  I would just get the much more easily found T. fortunei. 
     All these palms are large specimens now, but I did not purchase any of them in any larger than 15 gal. containers, and some, including my largest T. wagnerianus, were planted from gal. containers.   None of them had any noticeable trunks when I planted them.  Thus, I would not recommend that anyone buy large specimen sized palms--they are very expensive and also difficult to plant because they are so large and heavy.  They will grow fast enough in my opinion.  Instant gratification in gardening in over-rated. Indeed, I often see Trachycarpuses here which have very skinny trunks, especially at the bottom,  and which then widen toward the top. I don't care for that look.  I speculate (although I don't really know for sure) that this is because they were first grown fast in a warmer climate.  None of my palms have that characteristic so my hypothesis is that mine grew slower and therefore have thicker trunks.
     I also have both the straight form of Chamaerops humilis and C. humilis var. cerifera in my garden.  While both survive and even look good occasionally, there have been winters when they have been heavily damaged by the cold and then looked terrible for months or years.  For that reason I would not plant these again in any garden of mine.  I should note that these palms have been damaged in winters that have not been the coldest on record here, either.  They were all planted since the big freeze of 1989-90 where we got into the single digits for days on end; and records also show that in 1950 it got down to zero degrees in the Seattle area.
     Other palms I have tried that have been killed by cold winters include Rhapidophyllum hystrix, various Sabal palms, Brahea armata, Jubaea chilensis,  various Washingtonias,  Butea capitata and various rarer species.  Since it is generally recommended that if you want to have a chance with any of these palms that you start with a relatively large specimen, and since large specimens are expensive and hard to come by here, and since you are then risking losing your very rare and expensive palm in a cold winter, I would just recommend that you stop trying to grow them here (except for Trachycarpuses) and enjoy them in Hawaii. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Eryngium alpinum

Eryngium alpinum foliage in my front border now

The same plant in flower
     I have previously posted about eryngiums here, here, and here. In this post I just wanted to show you what the queen of eryngiums looks like as the foliage first emerges in the spring.  It makes a not unhandsome clump in my opinion.  That clump in the top picture has been in that location for at least 15 years.  The bottom picture is what the plant flowers look like.  I think the flowers of this eryngium put all other eryngiums to shame, except for Blue Jackpot.
     This eryngium is growing out in the open in full sun, with no supplemental water in the summer.  I have found that these eryngiums do not like to be crowded by other plants, and their foliage should not be overshadowed by other plants.  That, along with good drainage is the key to growing them long term.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chusquea couleou in bloom!

Chusquea couleou in my garden last year

Chusquea couleou behind blooming rhododendron in my garden now

Seeds of blooming Chusquea couleou
     I have a very large Chusquea couleou in the middle of my garden.  Chuquea couleou, for those who don't know, is a clumping bamboo from Chile.  I got this particular specimen many years ago--probably 15-- from a bamboo nursery north of San Francisco called Bamboo Sourcery.  My friend Diane and I were on a plantaholic's trip to that holy grail of plant lovers--the San Francisco area, and we passed this bamboo nursery on the way to visit the legendary Western Hills nursery (sadly now defunct, I believe).  At Bamboo Sourcery we were shown around by Jesus, who was in charge of the nursery since the owner had either recently died or was in poor health, I don't remember which.  He showed us a wonderful specimen of Chusquea couleou, which, if I remember correctly, was called 'Chilean Straight'.  He also indicated that Bamboo Sourcery had several different clones of Chusquea couleou.  At the time this bamboo was very rare in commerce here and it was exciting to see all these forms of chusquea.
     Anyway, once we got back home from that trip, I began emailing Jesus to order some chusqueas from Bamboo Sourcery.  As I told my friend Diane, I had been getting emails from Jesus! Soon I had three little Chusquea couleou plants sent to me by Bamboo sourcery in 1 gal. containers.  These little plants each cost at least $100.00.  One of those became the plant you see in the pictures above.
     As you can see from the third picture, this plant is flowering now.  I also notice that the Bamboo Sourcery website seems to indicate that Chusquea couleou 'Chilean Straight' is flowereing so that would confirm that my plant is indeed 'Chilean Straight'.
     I should note that some people have the impression that all bamboo of one kind flowers all over the world at the same time.  That is not precisely the case.  It may be that all bamboo that are clones of each other flower at the same time, but if the bamboo is from a different seed source, it will not necessarily flower when another bamboo of that species flowers.  That has certainly been my experience with chusqueas.  About 10 years ago I had another Chusquea couleou flower--another one of the plants Jesus sent me.  It was a different clone from 'Chilean Straight'.  No other chusquea in my garden flowered at that time, even though I had several others.  I have several seedlings of that mother plant which are mature specimens now and they are not flowering. 
     My other Chusquea couleou which flowered died after flowering, so it may be that this one will die also.  What a bummer!  This was such a beautiful plant right in the center of the garden.  The one consoling aspect of this is that the seed will readily germinate and I should have mass quantities of baby chusqueas to play with soon. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Front Border Report

Verbascum bombyciferum in my front border

Rhodocoma capensis in my front border

Lobelia tupa clump in my front border

Eremurus in my front border

Colchicum foliage in my front border

Eryngium bougatii foliage in my front border
     I have previously blogged about some of the plants in my front border, and today I wanted to give you an update on what is going on there.  As I have previously reported, this is a very large area in front of our house.  It is bordered on one side by a grass strip and then the road.  On the other side is a lawn area. The whole thing is surrounded by a semicircular driveway.  That means that this border is completely out in the open; that it can be viewed from all sides; and that there is nothing to protect it from deer or the elements.  I should also add that I never water this part of my garden.  This area is probably larger than many people's entire garden.  Although I have tried many plants here, and had many die or be eaten by deer, over time it has evolved into one of my favorite parts of the garden.
     After many weeks of work,  I finally have this border weeded and looking presentable.  One thing that happened here over the winter is that there used to be 6 large Eucalyptus glaucescens growing in this border. They were badly damaged in the big November freeze of 2010 and one of them was killed outright then.  I left them up until this winter in the hopes that they would recover, and they did to some extent, but the tops were dead and were becoming hazardous.  So we had them cut down this winter before any large branches could fall on top of someone.  I should note that I have grown many Eucalytus over the years and now conclude that they should only be grown as pollarded trees here--that is, trees that are cut down to the ground each year and allowed to regenerate only as foliage shrubs.  If they are allowed to become full sized trees, which they will become in short order, they will eventually either fall over or die from the cold, or look so bad that they have to be removed.  If you don't already know it, it is expensive to remove full sized trees.
     So now that the Eucalyptus are gone, this front border has no trees, and I actually think it will be an improvement, in that all the plants I am growing here do best in full sun anyway.  The pictures above give you an idea of what some of these plants look like at this time of the year.  For example, I once planted 3 Verbascum bombyciferums in this border and they have self sown.  The grey leaved rosette in the first picture is one of those self sown seedlings.  I have several restios in this border and they make nice evergreen accents, as you can see from the second picture.  There is also a picture of an emerging Lobelia tupa.  This is a picture of what was once a single plant--you can see how large it has become in the more than 15 years it has been in place.  Ditto with a large clump of Eremurus.  There is also a shot of the foliage of several colchicums, to give you an idea of how much space the foliage of these plants take up in the spring.  Finally, there is a picture of Eryngium bougatii which has very handsome foliage, but not very large or impressive flowers, in my opinion. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Caltha polypetala

New Gunnera leaf unfolding in front of large area of Caltha polypetala

Large swath of Caltha polypetala growing in my wetland area
     When we purchased our property some 20 years ago, one of the things that most attracted me to it was the range of conditions it provided for a garden, one of these being that it contained a very marshy area. At the time I was very much taken by Beth Chatto's book The Green Tapestry which outlined her planting style which can be characterized as planting the right plant for the garden conditions rather than trying to shoehorn plants into places which are not appropriate for them. The Green Tapestry contains sumptuous pictures, particularly of plants growing in wet conditions, and I wanted to emulate that look.
     One major characteristic of our lot is that it is long and narrow and a drainage ditch runs along side the lower part of it next to the road. This ditch is essentially a seasonal stream and the area around it is marshy almost year round.  Furthermore, when we first bought the property there was no vegetation in or around the ditch and there was no visual screen protecting the garden from the road.  So when I first planted that area, it was an open sunny marshy spot and I went to town in trying to locate and plant all the plants referenced in Beth Chatto's book.  It was during that phase in my gardening career that I became enamored of large leafed plants because so many of the wetland plants had large leaves.
     Gradually, over time, most of those plants I first planted have gone--either I decided I didn't want them any more for one reason or another or because they got shaded out by the trees and shrubs which I planted to provide height and privacy to the garden.  I also decided that I didn't want to be doing extensive maintenance in a wetland area because it was a sisyphean task battling wetland weeds such as ranunculus,  and I didn't want to be disturbing the creatures that inhabited that area including the many frogs we have or the newts and salamanders. Therefore, I have basically let the wetland area of my garden go wild.  Just about the only plants which have survived and thrived under this regime, besides the accursed ranunculus (both the weed version and ranunculus ficaria) are the native skunk cabbages and the plant that this blog entry is about--Caltha polypetala, sometimes called the giant marsh marigold.  As you can see from the pictures above, this plant has large handsome leaves and it has the capability of colonizing large areas. I wouldn't call it an aggressive spreader like petasites (which I would warn all gardeners away from), but over time it does enlarge its territory. The large swath in the picture is what it has accomplished in 18 or 19 years. 
     The flowers of this plant are like any marsh marigold--not particularly showy as you can see from the pictures, but the leaves are very handsome.  According to Christopher Lloyd's book, Garden Flowers, the correct name of this plant is actually Caltha palustris var. palustris but I have always known it as Caltha polypetala and old habits are hard to break.
     Also in the first picture above is the emerging leaf of a gunnera.  In a future post I will tell you about all my experiences growing the many types of gunneras which I have purchased over the years, and to just give you a hint--only one kind of gunnera is now growing in my garden.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Echium pininana

Self sown Echium pininana in my garden now

Closeup of stem of Echium pininana showing flowers just starting to develop
     Ever since I saw Echiums growing wild on the coast of California south of San Francisco, I have been trying to get them to grow in my garden.  While some of them are perfectly hardy in our zone 8 climate, such as Echium russicum which I have previously posted about, the most spectacular ones have not proven to be very hardy for me.  That has not been for lack of trying.  I have grown all manner of echiums over the years, including Echium wildpretii, Echium fastuosum (or candicans), and this echium pictured above, Echium pininana.  Over the years I have grown so many echiums that have succumbed to our combination of winter wet and cold that on more than one occasion I have resolved never to try any of these non-hardy echiums again.  Yet I always succumb to temptation, thinking that maybe we will have a mild enough winter that they will make it through and bloom.  That is basically all I want--a one time bloom is all I need.  If they die after that, so be it.  Indeed, the plant pictured above is supposed to be a biennial so I expect it to die after blooming anyway.  The same can be said about Echium wildprettii.  Echium fastuosum, on the other hand, should live longer (although probably not here).
     I have, in fact, had some of these echiums bloom in years past, and the great thing about echiums is that they set copious amounts of seed and I sometimes find seedlings of echiums past in various places in the garden.  Sometimes these seedlings appear years after the mother plant has passed on.  Such was the case with the plant you see in the pictures.  Last year in my front border 5 or 6 of these seedlings appeared and because we had such a mild winter this year, they made it through the winter and now it appears they are going to bloom! Oh joy!
     In a fit of optimism I also purchased and planted Echium wildpretiis and fastuosums from Annie's Annuals last year. These plants are also still alive after our mild winter, but they sustained some damage and do not look so good right now.  I expect them to recover, though, and maybe I will have more echium blooms. Hope springs eternal.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lathyrus vernus narrow leaf form

Closeup view of Lathyrus vernus naroow leaf form

Lathyrus vernus next to Epimedium rubrum
     A few year ago Kelly Dodson gave me a form of Lathyrus vernus that had much narrower leaves than the usual lathyrus vernus.  For those who are not familiar with Lathyrus vernus, it is a small plant for open woodland areas.  It blooms at this time of the year with nice purplish blossoms, although there are also forms with more reddish, pinkish or whitish blooms.  As you might imagine, I don't care for the lighter pinkish or whitish versions! Lathyrus vernus is not a difficult plant given open shady soil, relatively moist, and not too crowded by other plants.  It forms a bushy mound about a foot high and as wide.  It also self sows slightly so that you can get more plants of it that way.
     When I first came across this plant in nurseries, it did not speak to me because, frankly, it does not look like much in a nursery pot.  Only after it has been in the ground for a few years and allowed to bulk up does its true worth become apparent.  Now I would rate it as one of my top choices for the woodland garden.
     And not only is the usual plant a top choice, but even better, I have found is this narrow leaf form, mainly because of the textural interest it adds to the garden.  As you can see from the pictures above, the narrow, almost grass like leaves make a good contrast to some of the more broad leafed plants that populate a shade garden.  One example of this is the contrast it provides to epimediums.  Other examples might include trilliums, podophyllums, hostas (although I don't grow any hostas), hepaticas, hacquetias, hellebores, and cardiocrinums.  I could envision an open and moist shady bed filled with nothing but cardiocrinums and this narrow leafed form of lathyrus! How cool would that be?
     Kelly recently told me that he has been selecting seedlings of this form for even narrower leaves.  Pretty soon he will have dispensed with the leaves altogether!  Anyway, this plant is, of course, available from Far Reaches Farm.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Corydalis solida

One part of my garden in April with lots of red corydalis solida

Corydalis solida from Janis Ruksans
     One of my favorite plants is corydalis solida, particularly the reddish or pinkish forms.  This corydalis is a little bulb native to parts of Europe and Asia.  It is a spring ephemeral, meaning it comes up early, in late winter for us, and blooms in early spring and then dies down. By summer, it will have disappeared from above the ground.
     The bulbs, if happy, will multiply easily and the best way to increase your stock is to dig them up and separate out the bulbs after the foliage dies down.  By doing this religiously, you can have mass quantities of this wonderful plant in a few years.  These bulbs also self sow and now in my garden I have a number of plants of slightly differing color.  The seedlings, when they first come up, are tiny and so it is important not to weed them out and not to smother them with other plants. There are not so many seedlings that they create a nuisance-- unlike some other corydalis which I have grown.
      I got my first plants of Corydalis solida from Janis Ruksans many years ago.  They were labeled, if I remember correctly, Corydalis solida var. transylvanica.  They looked like the corydalis in the bottom photograph above.  I have since gotten other corydalis from other sources, including 'George Baker' which has more red flowers and more cut leaves than the transylvanica strain, 'Beth Evans' which has more pinkish flowers, and a number of others whose names I haven't kept track of.  The best source for unusual corydalis and for named cultivars of Corydalis solida in the U.S.  is Odyssey Bulbs and I have ordered many of them from them over the years.  Of course the king of corydalis is Janis Rukans, and his book Buried Treasures contains mouth watering pictures of fields of corydalis solida growing in his nursery in Latvia. it also contains some great closeup photos of various forms of this corydalis.  When I first got these bulbs they were not very available here, but now some of the larger bulb growers also carry them.
    As I have mentioned on more than one occasion, I like hummingbirds and these plants are much loved by them.
     I have found that these are relatively forgiving and good garden plants.  I now grow them almost everywhere in my garden.  The only place where I don't think they would be happy is in waterlogged conditions. They do well in dry shade, in moist shade and in full sun. The bulbs seem to be fatter and bigger when I have grown them in good humus enriched soil, though.   Occasionally the garden critters seem to have gotten to them, but if you keep dividing them, hopefully, you should be able to have enough stock to withstand that sort of predation.  Probably the most danger to them is from the gardener him or herself who might forget where they are planted and plant something else right on top of them!
     I like to plant these around other large plants in places where there is not much going on in the early spring but where there might be more foliage later in the year.  They are very good around hellebores, trilliums, cyprepridiums, arisaemas, and meconopsis.  They make good companions to hacquetias and hepaticas.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Anemone pavonina

Anemone pavonina blooming in my garden now
     A number of years ago both Heronswood and the O'Byrne's Northwest Garden Nursery offered a good selection of different colors of an anemone which, up until that time, I had not been familiar with.  These anemones were labeled as Anemone pavonina, which is an anemone native to the Mediterranean region,  like the more common Anemone coronaria.  I bought a few of these anemones from both nurseries, selecting this hot pink color because it is one of my favorite colors and I wanted that shade in the garden at this time of the year.  This flower also comes in other shades of pink, red,  purple, salmon, and white, but I don't have any of those shades on the plants in my garden.
     After that seemingly one time offering of this anemone, it sort of disappeared from the trade.  I have not seen it offered locally since, and it puzzles me as to what became of it.  I think it is an excellent plant.  It has survived well in my garden in fairly open spots.  I have gotten a few, but not many, self sown seedlings, and I wouldn't mind more of them.  Since the foliage looks like that of the common ranunculus weed around here, maybe I have had more seedlings, but just not noticed them.  I believe this plant can be divided, but I have not yet done so.
     I do not know of any current source for Anemone pavonina in the U.S., but the main source in the UK seems to have been Ashwood Nursery.  Sadly, their website indicates that due to a crop failure, neither plants nor seeds were available in 2012 and that they are slowly rebuilding their stock.  The RHS plant finder lists 11 nurseries which carry it.  I do not find it in the Jelitto or Chiltern seed lists.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Arum creticum

Arum creticum FCC form
      One plant which is blooming in my garden now is Arum creticum.  This is an arum I got a number of years ago from Odyssey Bulbs, a mailorder bulb nursery which specializes in hardy rare bulbs.  It was lableled as Arum creticum FCC form.  FCC, which stands for first class certificate, is an award given by the Royal Horticultural Society to a plant (I do not know what criteria they use in making this award--presumably it indicates that the plant is a good garden plant for one reason or another). 
     This arum hails from Crete (hence its name, creticum),  and has a reputation as being somewhat tender.  That has not been my experience with it.  I grow it in a sunny open spot in my garden and it has gotten bigger year by year, until now it produces a nice floral display.  Last year I dug up a few of its bulbs and moved them and now they, too, are about to bloom.  I intend to dig up this entire clump after the foliage dies down and separate out all the bulbs to create a giant swath of Arum creticum.  I intend to interplant that swath with Anenome coronaria 'Mr. Fokker", an anemome which I have been growing for a few years now and which has beautiful blue flowers which are also blooming now. This anenome is available from Brent and Becky's Bulbs.  This anenome will go well with Arum creticum not only because the blue anenome flowers will conpliment the yellow of the arum, but the anenome foliage is soft and feathery and it will make a nice contrast to the large broad leaves of the arum.  In addition, both plants like the same garden conditions. 
     Arums have an unusual growth habit in that their foliage arises in the dead of the winter, usually when nothing else is up, and it dies away in the summer.  This means that one has to think carefully before planting them to take advantage of this habit and to ensure that a large gaping hole is not left in your planting scheme when they die down.  I have concluded that a good spot for this arum-anenome combination I have envisioned is near a large plant such as Melianthus major or a cardoon which doesn't fully expand until later in the summer.  Alternatively, one could overplant the spot they grow in with later summer blooming annuals. 
     I have grown a lot of arums in my garden over the years,  and now the garden is being overrun by arums.  Many of them self sow and create a terrible weed problem because they are very hard to eradicate once they are established.  For that reason I would be very wary about planting any arums in the garden, and the one exception I would make to this rule is for this arum we have been discussing today.  I have never seen seedlings of it  and even if it did self sow around, the flowers are so beautiful I probably would not mind.  Also, I have read that this arum is supposed to have a lemon like scent, but I have not noticed that.
     Janis Ruksans lists in his current catalog another form of Arum creticum, called Stevens' form.  The catalog states that it resembles the FCC form except that the leaf and flower stalks are a deep purple (the stalks, not the leaves, are purple). The catalog goes on to state that it is only available from them, so I am considering making an order from Ruksans.  The catalog is in a PDF form and one cannot order through the internet, so I find it a pain in the you know what to order from Ruksans, but I might just have to do it. If you google Janis Ruksans catalog you will find it. Perhaps there are other like minded gardeners out there who would like to join with me in making a Ruksans order.  If so,  email me.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Trillium kurabayashii

Trillium kurabayashii blooming in my garden now
     This is the third and last trillium porn post I am making.  After many years of buying tiny trillium seedlings from various sources,  growing seedlings from my own plants, and religiously dividing trilliums,  I can now say that I almost have enough trilliums in my garden.  Almost, but not quite.  Anyway,  today's post is about the third trillium in my triumvirate of the best trilliums for the garden, in my opinion.  That third member of the ruling class (the other two being Trillium chloropetalum 'Volcano' and Trillium chloropetalum Duane's Strain) is Trillium kurabayashii, also another west coast native.  Trillium kurabayashii is not a Japanese native plant as I have sometimes seen it described on the internet.  Rather, it bears the name kurabayashii in honor of Matsatake Kurabayashi, a botanist specializing in Trillium.  Trillium kurabayashii is, in fact, native to southwest Oregon and northern California.
     I have three different strains of Trilllium kurabayashii growing in my garden. One is from a number of plants I got more than 10 years ago from Janis Ruksans, a famous bulb grower from Latvia.  Ruksans operates a mailorder nursery for bulbs and so when I saw he had these trilliums for sale one year, I ordered 10 of them.  They came as divisions and they all grew and did very well.  It is somewhat ironic that I had to acquire this native plant all the way from Latvia!  Anyway, I have also divided these plants from time to time and so have a large quantity of them in my garden.  While they are good plants and have very nice large clear red flowers, the leaves do not have the dark markings which I prize in trilliums.  The Ruksans plants are good and vigorous growers, however, and clump up very fast and well.
     The second strain of kurabayashiis I have in my garden is from plants I purchased from Heronswood many years ago.  These were offered as Trillium kurabayashii and they were flowering size when offered, so I snapped up a few of them.  I planted them in a place that has since become too shady and root infested for them to do well, but fortunately I got a number of seedlings from the mother plants, and those seedlings have since matured and flowered.  The plant in the picture is one of those seedlings.  I now have about 25 of those seedlings in the garden and they have all flowered and done well and, indeed, are producing seedlings of their own.  At the time these seedlings were produced I did not have other trilliums in the garden that were flowering, so these seedlings are not the result of any intermarriage of species that I know of.
     All of these Heronswood strain of kurabayashiis are beautiful plants. They all have very large flowers of somewhat varying color, from almost black red to a clear dark red.  The leaves on all of them have very good dark markings as is evident from the photo above.  I would have to rate them as generally more beautiful plants than the Ruksans strain.
     The third strain of kurabayashiis in my garden is from Far Reaches Farm.  The plants of this strain seem more like the pictures of kurabayashii one sees on the internet.  The leaves have very good dark markings, but the plants are not as tall as my other kurabayashiis and the flowers are not as large.  I notice that Far Reaches has a good picture of this plant on their website, but they indicate that it is not currently in stock.
     To conclude this journey into the wonderful world of trilliums, if I were serious about trilliums, but just starting out, I would try to seek out these best kinds.  I would not buy bare root trilliums in bags (most of those do not do well, I have found); I would not buy the straight species of chloropetalum unless I were assured it was a good form with large red flowers (I don't care for other flower colors on trilliums), and I would make sure the plants were not collected from the wild.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Trillium chloropetalum 'Duane's Strain'

Trillium chloropetalum seedling from one of Duane West's plants

Another Trillium chloropetalum seedling from Duane West's plants

Closeup of flower on seedling from one of Duane West's plants
     It used to be that if one visited Heronswood Nursery in March or April, there were some large trilliums in containers by the checkout stands. These were labeled as display plants of Trillium chloropetalum owned by Duane West, the nursery manager.  They were just about the most beautiful trilliums I have ever seen.  Fortunately, Heronswood offered seedlings of these plants in the nursery and over time I purchased almost 20 of them and they are now growing in my garden.
     When I bought these trilliums they were still tiny seedlings--I don't think they had even developed the characteristic three leaves yet.  The labels indicated that they were from deep red flowered plants, but because they were seedlings, flower color could not be guaranteed.  That was over 10 years ago, and now that all these seedlings have matured and become large flowering clumps, it has become evident that there is some variation in flower color from very dark red, as in the second picture above, to more clear, but still deep, red.  None of the plants I bought turned out to have light pink flowers.  All the plants were beautiful.  They also all had leaf markings of varying degrees--some marked more than others.
     These plants are the earliest trilliums to come up in my garden--they arise even before Trillium 'Volcano' which I wrote about yesterday.  They are also very large and vigorous plants.  I would say they are at least as large as Volcano and at least as vigorous.  In fact, I have concluded that they are slightly better plants than Volcano for the following reasons: first, I think the flowers are slightly larger than those of Volcano, although this is just a guess; second, I like the fact that the flower color varies slightly from plant to plant and that some of those colors are better, in my opinion, than those of Volcano; third, many of these plants have more prominently marked leaves than Volcano;  and finally, these plants freely self sow, which Volcano has not done in my garden, and that is a definite plus. 
     Besides this dark red strain from Duane's plants, there apparently is a lighter pink strain and you can view that strain on the Far Reaches website.  Unfortunately it does not appear that Far Reaches now has that plant in stock, although they do have a number of other good trilliums for sale.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Trillium chloropetalum 'Volcano'

Trillium chloropetalum 'Volcano' closeup view

Trillium chloropetalum 'Volcano' clump blooming in my garden now
     Trilliums have become one of my favorite plants and I want to tell you about one of the best of this great group of plants.  Trillium chloropetalum is one of the trilliums native to the west coast of the U.S., although I am not sure that it grows in the woods near us.  I have read that it is found more commonly in southwestern Oregon and northern California, but I am not an expert on where it is found in the wild.  I have purchased and have seen over the years a number of plants labeled as Trillium chloropetalum, but in my humble opinion, two forms of this plant are so far above the others that I would not bother with any but those two forms.  The first of those forms is the one today's blog is about--Trillium chloropetalum 'Volcano', and the other form I will blog about tomorrow (not to keep you in suspense, but the other is one I call the Duane West Strain, named after the former manager of Heronswood).
     Volcano is a form I got from those plants persons extraordinaire, Ernie and Marietta O'Byrne, who have a nursery outside of Eugene, Oregon called Northwest Garden Nursery.  The O'Byrnes now specialize in hellebores (I think they have the best hellebores on the market), and I do not know if they still sell any other kind of plant.  I got my Volcano from them a number of years ago.
     According to Ernie O'Byrne, Volcano was a trillium that was selected in New Zealand for its good form and flower color.  As you can see from the pictures above, the flowers are a good rich red and they are very large.  The plant is also a vigorous grower, and the leaves have good markings on them.
     Some years ago, I have been told, someone succeeded in tissue culturing Volcano, but the success rate of the process was not high, and so the nursery involved in the effort gave it up.  (Tissue culture, for those who don't know, is a method of growing plants from a few cells in a laboratory).  This means that Volcano is only available now as divisions of individual plants and that is why it is so hard to come by.  I have not gotten any seed set on my plants of Volcano either, so I have not had any seedlings of it, although I have had lots of seedlings of other trilliums, including other forms of chloropetalum, in my garden.
     The one bright spot in all this is that Volcano is a vigorous plant and divides easily.  Last year in early spring I divided the plant you see in the pictures above, and I got more than 25 divisions from that one plant, even though I left the biggest part of the plant undivided.  That is why you see such a big plant in the pictures. You will be glad to know that all of those divisions are now also blooming.  I am going to be giving a number of those divisions to Kelly and Sue from Far Reaches Farm, so hopefully in future this great trillium will be more widely available.
     For those who want to know, I divide my trilliums in early spring before there is any substantial growth on them.  This practice has worked quite well for me, although I have read that others divide their trilliums after they have bloomed and gone to seed.  I have never tried that so do not know how it compares to my method.
     As for growing these trilliums, they like what all shade plants seem to like--good humus enriched soil, well drained but also moist (almost an oxymoron), not too shady, but not too sunny, and not much competition from tree roots. I have found that my trilliums decline in too much shade and with too much competition from other plants.  These trilliums are west coast natives which means that they are adapted to our rainfall patterns here. That means that they don't really need any extra water in the summer--they just basically go dormant in the dry summer months.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hacquetia epipactis

Hacquetia epipactis with anenomes

Hacquetia epipactis with corydalis solida

Hacquetia epipactis closeup

Hacquetia epipactis 'Thor"- Photo courtesy of Kelly Dodson
     After a hiatus from last summer, I am continuing my blog posts.  It's a long story so I won't bother you with the details now.  Suffice it to say that I want to tell you about one of my favorite little woodland plants--Hacquetia epipactis.  This is a plant that Kelly Dodson introduced me to many years ago, and I have now worked up my stock of it so that I have achieved that much to be desired state--mass quantities of hacquetias!
     This is a small plant, about the size of an hepatica, if you are familiar with those.  In fact, hepaticas are good companion plants for hacquetias because they like the same conditions and they bloom about the same time.  There is nothing better (all right, there may be a few things better) than a swath of hacquetias blooming with their chartreuse glow alongside a swath of blue or pink hepaticas. Other good campanion plants for hacquetias are, as you can see from the pictures above, corydalis solida, especially the pink or reddish versions, and blue anenomes. They also make good ground cover plants to surround the taller trilliums and hellebores.
     I have found hacquetias to be very forgiving plants in terms of the conditions that they will grow in.  I have grown them in quite dark shade and they have done well.  Likewise, dry shade doesn't seem to bother them.  I have also grown them in almost full sun and they have done well, although their foliage droops a bit on those few hot days we have.  Of course, they are most luxuriant when they are gown in good rich somewhat moist but well drained soil in partial open shade.  But don't all woodland plants do best in those conditions? 
     Hacquetias are one of the first, if not the first, of the little woodland plants to bloom in the spring, and their bloom period lasts for a relatively long time.  Technically, I think most of the show comes from bracts or some such thing rather than what botanists call flowers, but those distinctions don't really much concern me.  This is the only plant in its genus, but there is a variegated form called 'Thor', pictured above, which is to die for.  The picture of 'Thor' above is of a plant  growing at Far Reaches Farm, so presumably, 'Thor' will be available to the hoi polloi at sometime in the future.
     Hacquetias can be divided, although I have never done that.  My hacquetias create enough self sown seedlings to satisfy my desire for new ones.  The self sowing, while adequate for plenty of new plants, is not enough to qualify hacquetias as noxious weeds, however.
     After the bloom period of hacquetia is done, the foliage takes over, and you will be glad to know that it is nice and neat foliage and lasts well for the rest of the year.  That makes hacquetia an excellent addition to the woodland garden.  Hacquetias are not commonly found in nurseries, although every once in while a retail nursery, particularly a good one like Swanson's or Wells-Medina in the Seattle area, will have them.  Far Reaches, of course, carries them, and you may also find them at nurseries which specialize in little woodland plants.