Thursday, September 8, 2016

Mimulus Lewisii

Mimulus lewisii at Paradise, Mt. Raninier

Another Mimulus lewisii at Paradise

Mimulus lewisii at Crater Lake, Oregon

Mimulus lewisii seedling in my garden

     Many years ago, when I was first starting my old garden on Bainbridge Island, I came across some plants of Mimulus lewisii at Wells Medina Nursery, and I was at that stage of gardening when I bought all unusual plants I could find.  I was warned by the nursery staff that these plants, although native to the Pacific Northwest, were tricky to grow in a garden setting.  I bought them anyway, planted them in a fairly wet area of my old garden (much of it was very wet), and that was the last I saw of them.  I don't really remember what happened to them, but in any event, they did not thrive.  So I had thought, until very recently, that these were difficult plants in a garden setting.
     Recently, as you probably realize by now, I have become interested in native plants, and Mimulus lewisii is one of our most showy native plants.  So I have given it another go, and I am here to report on that effort.  First, I should preface this by saying that a couple of years ago I purchased three plants of a Mimulus lewisii hybrid with Mimulus cardinalis from Annie's Annuals, and I had planted them in one of the moistest spots in my new garden.  They loved it there.  In the second year after planting they bloomed almost all summer, although I was disappointed in the color of the blossom--it was a very pastel pink, not the darker pink of Mimulus lewisii, although the flower shape was much the same.  Then, in the third year I could see that I was going to have a problem with this hybrid.  Not only was it spreading aggressively from the roots, but it was also freely seeeding itself about the garden.  So I bit the bullet and took all of this hybrid out of the garden.  I still see seedlings of it popping up in its old location, though. 
     Last year I came across Mimulus lewisii at Woodbrook Native Plant Nursery in Gig Harbor, Washington, and so I bought a plant and planted it in my new garden.  This was a plant in a four inch pot, and not very impressive in its container.  I also happened upon more of these when I was visiting Wild Ginger Farm in Oregon, and so bought three more, which I also planted in my new garden.  By the way, if you ever get the chance to visit Wild Ginger Farm, it is a great place, and I highly recommend it. 
     All of these plants did well after being planted, even though they weren't planted in particularly wet spots, although they also weren't planted in the driest areas of my garden, either.  As they bloomed I noticed that the Wild Ginger Farms plants were a lighter pink, more like the hybrid, than the plant from Woodbrook Native Plant Nursery.   After much googling, I found that the flower color of Mimulus lewisii can vary from light pink to dark pink, depending on its area of origin.  So if you want a dark pink flower on your Mimulus lewisii, make sure it is a form which has dark pink flowers. 
     I eventually took out all the light pink plants, leaving only the darker pink one.  That one has done well and I see lots of little seedling plants of it around the mother plant.  I have also found seedlings from last year which are now mature and flowering in the garden.  The last picture above is of one of those seedlings.  So I intend to dig up some of those seedlings and try them in different parts of the garden, particularly on the very steep slope behind my house.
     As you can see from the pictures above, Mimulus lewisii is a common sight at high elevations in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.  It tends to grow at stream edges or in very wet meadows, although I saw a lot of it at Artists Point near Mt. Baker recently growing in what looked liked gravelly areas at the side of roads, and on top of Artists Point itself.  Even so, those are probably fairly moist areas due to the fact that there was probably recent snow melt in the area.  In any event, I think it is safe to say that Mimulus lewisii is a moisture lover, and would probably not do well in a dry part of a garden.  It also seems to grow in fairly open conditions, so I doubt it would do well in the shade of trees.  Otherwise, it does not seem to be all that difficult a plant to grow in more lowland conditions.  I saw some of the most attractive collections of it at Paradise, Mt. Rainier where it was growing in damp meadows, along with Castilleja parviflora, lupines, and Bird's Foot Pedicularis.  I would love to get a meadow like that established in my own garden someday.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Louseworts, aka Pedicularis

Pedicularis ornithorhyncha, or bird's beak lousewort at Paradise, Mt. Rainier

Bird's beak lousewort by a stream at Paradise, Mt. Rainier

More bird's beak lousewort at Paradise

Probably Pedicularis contorta at Paradise

More Pedicularis contorta at Paradise

Pedicularis groenlandica, aka elephant's head lousewort at Reflection Lakes, Mt. Rainier National Park

     I have done a fair amount of hiking this summer in both Mt. Rainier National Park and in the Olympic National Park, both of which are just a few hours drive from where I live now.  One of my purposes in doing so was to see and photograph wildflowers, and in the process, I became aware of a genus that seems to me to hold great promise for the home gardener.  That genus, of course, is Pedicularis, which, until this year, had been completely unknown to me.
     As it turns out, there are at least 8 species of Pedicularis which are native to the Pacific Northwest.  A listing of these can be found here.  And a review of those species reveals that almost all of them are very striking plants.  In particular, Pedicularis groenlandica is very showy.  I have posted above, as the last image, an iPhone photo I got of this in a marshy meadow at Reflection Lakes in Mt. Rainier National Park.  This was taken at the end of the flowering period for these, so even though there were many of them at that location, I was only able to get the one shot you see above.  However, if you want to see more amazing images of these plants, here is a good link.  This plant is found in the high mountains of western North America, and in Canada and Greenland (hence the name groenlandica).  It grows in moist marshy areas.
     These plants are in the Orobanche (commonly referred to as broomrape) family, and they are parasitic or hemiparisitic on other plants.  It is probably the case that these Pedicularis are hemiparasitic in the same way that castillejas are hemiparasitic;  that is, their roots gain nutrients from the roots of nearby plants.  It is for this reason, probably, that they have not been cultivated much in gardens, just like castillejas have not been cultivated much in gardens.  But as we saw in my earlier entry on castillejas, castillejas have proven to be amenable to cultivation, so why not Pedicularis?  Indeed, I have uncovered various protocols online for growing Pedicularis from seed, including one here.
     These plants are showy enough, it seems to me, that even if great care must be taken to get them to grow from seed in the home garden, such care would be warranted.  I can remember when Dactylorhizas were considered difficult to grow and hard to find.  Not so any more, simply because gardeners have taken up their cause and lo and behold, it turns out they are not so difficult after all.  And many of the Pedicularises rival Dactylorhizas in showiness.
     I recently acquired seed of some Pedicularis from Specialty Perrennials Seeds, and I intend to directly sow the seeds into some moist beds I have in my garden.  I can only hope that at least some of them come up!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Leave Room In Your Garden For Annuals!

New border in my garden with annual echiums and Ursinia anthemoides

Self sown Clarkia unguiculata in my garden

Anchusa capensis and self sown wallflowers in my garden

Collinsia heterophylla in my garden

Phacelia campanulata in my garden

Self sown California poppies and echiums in my garden (along with some alstroemerias)

     One way in which my gardening style has changed over the years is that I am much more open to serendipidy in the garden.  It used to be, when I first started gardening,  I planned everything out in my head, and then I adhered to the gardening adage that used to be in vogue, particularly with respect to English style gardens, that no bare soil should show in a garden.  I no longer think that way of planting is the way to go.  Ever since I discovered the joy of annuals, particularly annuals grown from either self sowers or by sowing purchased seed directly in the garden, I have seen that there is a need to have some bare space in a garden.  Otherwise, where would there be room for annuals?
     And the great thing about annuals is that you can acquire mass quantities of plants for only the price of seed, that you can drastically change the look of the garden from year to year, and even from season to season, and that you can be free to experiment.  Furthermore, by using annuals you do not have to buy large more permanent plants to cover bare spots, but instead can simply sow annual seeds in those bare spots while you wait for your permanent plants to grow.
     In the top picture above, there is an image of a bed in my new garden that I just prepared this year.  I took up some sod to make it and added a lot of the compost/sand mix that I have been using in my garden.  I then planted some more permanent plants in the bed, such as restios, a Tiger Eyes sumac, some Blue Leap agapanthus, and some penstemons.  There still was a lot of bare space, so I took some seed of Ursinia anthemoides (an orange flowered daisy from South Africa which I previously blogged about here), and an Echium plantangineum Rose Bedder that I had gotten from Outside Pride, and sprinkled it over the area.  That is all I did. I did not add anything over the top, nor did I press the seed into the ground.  Anyway, the plants came up like gangbusters, and the only thing I have had to do since is thin the seedlings a few times, and make sure the area is weeded.  I did all this quite late in the season--probably in June, but the flowers are now coming into bloom in a very gratifying way.  The Rose Bedder Echium is not very rose, but that does not really matter to the look I was going after.  Anyway, this experience tells me that in our climate, with its very long growing season, annuals can be sowed in waves--some early and some late--to get a continuous wave of color in the garden.
     I am particularly taken with the more wild annuals, not the lumpy tame looking ones so often found in nurseries.  In this I have been greatly influenced by Annie's Annuals.  Some of the ones I am particularly fond of include California poppies of various colors, Ursinia anthemoides, Collinsia heterophylla (a California native pictured above), Phacelia campanularia which I previously blogged about here, clarkias of various sorts, and Anchusa capensis (which may technically be perennial, but acts like an annual here).  I will be writing a separate blog post about Anchusa capensis soon.  Two of my favorite sources for annual seeds are Larner Seeds, which specializes in California native seeds, and Outside Pride, an Oregon seed company which carries a wide range of annuals.  Both companies send large amounts of seed in each packet, which I cannot say about all seed companies.  Also, Seedhunt is another good source, particularly for California native seed.  There are many other seed companies, and sometimes it pays to just spend some time googling them, which is what I often do to while away the time while I am drinking coffee in the morning.

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Trio of Late Summer Alliums

Allium 'Summer Pink'

Allium Millenium

Allium 'August Confection'

Allium 'August Confection' in the landscape

     Since moving to my new garden I have become quite interested in some of the smaller, late summer flowering alliums.  I believe I had grown some of these in my old garden, but they kind of got lost there--it was a much bigger garden than my present one, and it had generally wetter and shadier conditions than I have here.  I acquired 2 of these last summer from Far Reaches, 'August Confection' and 'Summer Pink', and I planted them in the driest part of my garden.  So far I have been quite impressed with how well they have handled drought conditions, and with how good they look with everything I have planted them with.  Their foliage is a nice clean green or bluish green,  and it compliments the flowers very nicely.  That is something you can't say about many alliums!
     Anyway, in my reading about plants I had come across glowing descriptions of another allium, Allium 'Millenium', and it sounded pretty good, so this spring I ordered three plants of this one from High Country Gardens.  So, while I don't have a long experience with growing this allium, I can report that it seems to grow very similarly to the other two, and its flowers seem to be larger than those of the other two and they seem to last longer.  This makes it a winner in my book, and I plan to order more of Allium 'Millenium' in the spring.  'Millenium' is now widely grown by many of the national mail order nurseries, so it is widely available, as a google search will reveal.
     I should point out that all three of these alliums come from the allium king, Mark McDonough.  You can read a little something about him in this 2007 article from Horticulture.  As that article notes, there are many late summer and fall blooming alliums, and most gardeners do not seem to be aware of their existence.  I myself would like to learn more about this group of alliums, and would like to grow more of them.  They certainly do provide a punch of color to a late summer dry garden, when there is often not much going on.

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.