Friday, August 31, 2012


Colchicums blooming now in my garden
     I am finally accumulating mass quantities of Colchicums in my garden and the show is just beginning!  Colchicums, for those new to them, are bulbs native mostly to west Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean region.  The ones I grow in my garden bloom in the early fall starting now and they bloom while there is no foliage on the plant.  The foliage comes after the bloom and lasts until early summer when it dies away completely, leaving the ground bare for a couple of months until the flowers appear. 
     The foliage,  while it is there, is fairly wide and luxurious so it cannot be ignored.  This growing pattern of colchicums makes them a challenge to site in a garden, yet the beautiful flowers which pop up so suddenly now when there is not much that is fresh in the garden make them eminently worthwhile.  Colchicums also like the sun and would not do as well in heavy shade so that rules out planting them in some dark dank corner of the garden.  I have read, however, that they can be planted under the high shade cast by large deciduous trees, although I have not tried them in that situation.
     They are drought tolerant and I originally planted mine in my front border where they receive no supplemental water.  They have done very well there and have greatly multiplied.  For example, the colchicum in the picture is one I got at least 5 years ago (and maybe more) from Odyssey Bulbs and I probably got at least 50 additional bulbs this year from 5 bulbs I originally planted.  I did not even dig up the original bulbs to get these additional ones--I just used my hands to scoop out the sort of loose bulbs at the surface.
      For those who want to know the name of this colchicum, I have lost its ID, so you are out of luck.  However, based on other colchicums I have grown, they are all good. I don't think you could go wrong ordering any, although I personally like the single flowered bright pink ones.
     To go back to the problem of siting these bulbs, in my front border I grow them around and between the spiky stars of the front border-- the nolinas, dasylirions, and yuccas.  They lend themselves to planting in this kind of dryland border when one does not expect the ground to always be covered with foliage.  I have, however, started to plant more of them in my more traditional garden borders and I am still experimenting with what, if anything, to interplant them with.  In his book on succession planting Christopher Lloyd mentions that he plants them so they are surrounded by a carpet on Adiantum venustum, and that Beth Chatto plants them in a bed of periwinkles.  I don't really want to do either of those things, but after experimenting with annuals this year (see this post) it has occured to me to try some annuals which would do their main show after the colchicum foliage dies down but before the flowers appear.  I will let you know how this goes in the future.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Fremontodendron californicum blooming in my garden
     A shrub which is blooming now in my garden is Fremontodendron californicum, sometimes called the California flannel bush.  I assume it got this common name because the leaves have a flannel like feel to them--they are sort of furry and, as you can see from the picture, the stems also have a furry brown indumentum on them.  I have read on the internet that this can be an irritant to some people (just like the indumentum on Tetrapanax can be an irritant).
     This shrub is a California native as is evident from its second name, and it grows in dry conditons, making it very drought tolerant and liable to rot if grown in too moist a situation.  A friend gave me this plant probably 10 years ago.  It was growing in a one gal. container and I basically plopped it into the garden where I could find a place, which happened to be by a semicircular concrete wall that is a feature in the part of my garden near the lionness sculpture.  As is usual with us plant collectors, I planted it too close to a lot of other things, including the wall itself.  As those other plants got bigger and so did the Fremontodendron,  I wacked back the Fremontodendron to keep it from overpowering its neighbors.  This is a fast growing shrub which can get to be 20 feet tall and as wide.  Indeed, on more than one occasion I have cut this shrub completely to the ground.  The most recent time I did this was this spring.  As you can see from the photo, this harsh treatment has not hurt it in the least.  Although cutting it back delayed the blossom time of this shrub (normally it should start blooming in the spring), it now is over 6 feet tall and wide and is blooming well.
     Although I have not grown a Fremontodendron in my front border yet, and so do not know from experience whether the deer would eat it, I can surmise from the furryness of the leaves and stems that it might be deer resistant and this surmise is confirmed by information on the internet.  I think a Fremontodendron would be a good addition to my front border and since there are some available now at Bainbridge Gardens, my local retail nursery, I might have to get another one.
     This shrub is evergreen in its native locations and it has been hardy so far in my garden, although it is probably at its limit of hardiness in zone 8.   It has taken a lot of cold in the time it has been in my garden, but it is growing right against a concrete wall which probably keeps it both drier and warmer than it would be otherwise.  Absent a concrete wall, I think the best situation to try it would be in a well drained open sunny spot. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Zauschneria with Nolina nelsonii
     I am always looking for plants that hummingbirds will love and one of these is Zauschneria, a native of dry slopes of western North America, particularly California.  It is sometimes called California fuschia, Hummingbird flower or Hummingbird trumpet.  This plant, which for much of the year is nondescript, is in its element right now in my front border, sporting these orange red hummingbird magnet flowers.  There are a number of different species and named cultivars of Zauschneria and unfortunately, I have lost track of which one this is.  I also have a different one in another part of my garden, and although I know it is a different one it looks almost the same as this one.
     All these zaushnerias seem to have a few things in common.  First and foremost, they are very drought tolerant.  As I have said many times, I never water in my front border and so the plant you see in the picture has gone without any noticeable water for almost 2 months.  It has not seemed to suffer from this, and that makes sense considering where it grows as a native.  Secondly, they all seem to be deer resistant.  Third, they all have very small leaves and grow low to the ground.  This makes them a good groundcover to grow around taller drought tolerant plants like nolinas, yuccas, and dasylirions.
     This particular zauschneria in the picture has been growing there for probably 15 years and it has spread somewhat during that time.  I wouldn't call it an aggressive spreader, but keep in mind that it will spread.
     I cut this plant to the ground when I am doing cleanup of this section of the garden in the spring.  In the winter here the foliage of zauschneria browns off and it looks better then to cut it all away.  In the spring when growth returns it greens up again.
     Zauschnerias never look particularly impressive when they are growing a nursery pot and it would be very easy to pass them by.  I would not call them stars of the garden, but they are certainly worth growing particularly as companions to the various spiky dry land plants we all love.  In addition, if you want to make the hummingbirds happy, by all means plant a zauschneria or two or three or...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gentiana andrewsii

Gentiana andrewsii blooming in my garden now
     I got a gentian a number of years ago but I have since lost track of both the name and where I got it from, although I may have gotten it from Kelly Dodson.  Anyway, it has been living in a partially shaded, but not especially moist part of my garden all these years.  I have pretty much neglected it, yet it blooms each year about this time with these beautiful blue balloon like flowers that never open any more than you see in the picture.  The plant itself without the flowers is rather nondescript, sending up stems (there are not very many stems on this plant) that are one to two feet tall.  When the plant blooms, the stems tend to fall over with the weight of the bloom.
     Since I decided to blog about this plant, I discovered that it is probably Gentiana andrewsii, a plant native to more easterly and cold parts of the U.S. than Washington state.  I also found that it grows in moist woods, thickets and low lying areas near streams and ponds. Also, if left alone in optimal growing conditions it is supposed to form large clumps.  That has not happened with my plant and I think the reason may be that I have it in too dry a spot.  I shall have to move it.
     In researching this plant I also found that it is offered for sale by Plant Delights Nursery.  I may have to order some so that I can increase the number of plants I have of this.  I hate to have only a singleton plant of anything worth growing, and I now conclude that is worth growing because of the shot of blue it gives to the garden in a season where blue in rare.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Arisaema candidissimum

Arisaema candidissimum blooming in my garden in July
     Yesterday I was at Far Reaches Farm and I was talking to Kelly about arisaemas which is why I decided to make today's blog about one of my favorite ones--Arisaema candidissimum.  I have grown many arisaemas in my gardening career and for a while they were very hot plants in the horticultural world.  They still are to some extent, but there are many of them that have been on the market that are not really worth growing in my opinion.  However, one of the first ones I ever grew and one of the first to be readily available here is still one of the best, and that one, of course, is Arisaema candidissimum.
     As you can see from the picture, the flower of this one is one of the more beautiful of the arisaemas.  Some arisaemas have just downright weird flowers and beautiful is not an adjective to describe them.  This one, however, I would have to call beautiful.
     Another characteristic of some arisaemas is that they don't last long in the garden, Arisaema sikokianum being the first one that comes to mind in that category.  I would hate to tally how much I have spent on that arisaema over the years only to have it come up only once and then disappear forever.
     Arisaema condidissimum is not like that--it endures in the garden, even under very harsh conditions.  I have my stand of it planted in a very dry and out of the way place in the garden, yet it still comes up year after year and indeed, it multiplies.  Now that I think about it I probably should put it in a better spot.  Like all arisaemas, it does fine in the shade.
     The picture above was taken in July, making this a late blooming arisaema.  For more good information on this plant, see John Grimshaw's entry in his garden diary here.  Arisaema candissimum can be found at many nurseries, including Far Reaches.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Good Combination

Echinops and Kniphofia in my front border

Closeup of Echinops flowers

Closeup of Kniphofia flower
     Blooming together now in the front border of my garden are a very large kniphofia and an echinops that I bought as Echinops ruthenicus many years ago, but is now called Echinops ritro ssp. ruthenicus.  Echinops is one of those thistle like plants that the deer do not eat, and in common with most of the thistle like plants I have grown, is also drought tolerant.  I have mixed feelings about this plant, however.  Even though right now when it is in bloom it has nice flowers, I think it is kind of a messy looking plant.  I would not plant it if I had a small garden for this reason.  Furthermore, once you plant one of these it is very difficult to get rid of--I know because I have tried and failed.  Any bit of root that is left will regenerate.  I have seen pictures of this plant on the internet which look very good where all the flowers are standing straight up.  That is not how it behaves in my garden.  Instead they all splay out every which way.  And they don't do that because I grow them too well--I never water or fertilize in my front border.  So, I would recommend this plant only if you have a large, rather wild area of your garden that is not watered and that needs to be deer proof.
     The other plant in this combination is a very large kniphofia that I got so many years ago that I have forgotten its name.  I think I got it from Plant Delights and it was touted as a very large plant, and indeed it is.  Right now the plant is at least 7 feet tall.  Because we had such a mild winter last year the foliage of this kniphofia did not die back and that may have contributed to its great size this year.  Usually I cut all the foliage back in the spring, but not this year.  
     I used to grow a great many kniphofias, but this is the only one I have in my garden now.  Many of them were planted in parts of my garden that got too shady for them, and others I got rid of because I thought that, just like the echinops,  they were too messy.  I have not written kniphofias off, however,  There are many that I like a lot, and the hummingbirds like them too.  I am sure that I will acquire more of them in the future.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

More Delphiniums

Delphinium 'Dusky Maiden' Blooming in my garden now

Closer view of 'Dusky Maiden'

'Dusky Maiden' closeup

Delphinium 'Royal Aspirations' closeup
   I have previously posted about Dowdeswell's Delphiniums and as I noted in that previous entry, all of the delphiniums I grow are from Dowdeswell's seed strains.  Earlier this summer I purchased three different of these delphiniums from Annie's Annuals--'Dusky Maidens',  'Royal Aspirations' and 'Sweethearts'.  Both 'Dusky Maidens' and 'Sweethearts' are pinkish, the difference between them being that 'Dusky Maidens' is supposed to have a brown bee while 'Sweethearts' is supposed to have a white bee.  The bee is that center part of each individual flower that you can see in the two closeup pictures above.  Since these are seed strains, however, and not clones, there is some variation between the plants and, as you can see from the first two pictures above one of my 'Dusky Maidens' has a white bee.  That is ok by me since the flower is still beautiful.  The third picture above shows a closeup of what 'Dusky Maidens' is supposed to look like.
     The blooms in these pictures are coming from the second flush of bloom that you can get on these delphiniums by cutting them back after they have bloomed the first time.  The bloom in the first picture is standing up all by itself with no staking at the moment.  This is not really a good practice since there are many things that could cause the stalk to flop over, but at this time of the year I have less energy for staking than I did earlier.
     I like these pink delphiniums very much--their color is a nice shade of pink with overtones of blue.  I also, of course, like the blue delphiniums.  Blue is what delphiniums do best and the blues in 'Royal Aspirations', as you can see from the closeup, are fine indeed.  Whenever my delphiniums are in full bloom I think maybe I should just plant nothing but delphiniums in my garden.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Musa Sikkimensis

Musa sikkimensis 'Red Tiger' in my garden

Closer view of Musa sikkimensis 'Red Tiger'

Musa sikkimensis with Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii" and Begonia boliviensis 'Bonfire'

Closer view of Musa sikkimensis

Young plant of Musa sikkimensis 'Bengal Tiger'

Closeup of underside of Musa sikkimensis 'Bengal Tiger' leaf
     Another one of my top ten favorite plants has to be Musa sikkimensis.  This is a hardy banana that is one of the highest altitude bananas, hailing from Bhutan and India.  It is supposedly a little less hardy than the more common hardy Musa basjoo, but I have found it to be perfectly hardy in my garden.  I do not treat it any differently from Musa basjoo and it performs just as well.
     The main differences from Musa basjoo are that it has more beautiful leaves than Musa basjoo--they are more rounded and do not get as tattered as those of Musa basjoo.  Also, Musa sikkimensis can have more colorful leaves than Musa basjoo.  The Musa sikkimensis in the third and fourth pictures above was one I got more than 10 years ago from Plant Delights Nursery as the straight species.  The leaves on that one have a very attractive reddish cast to their undersides.  The plant pictured in the first two shots is one I acquired from Mesogeo Nursery at least 5 or 6 years ago and maybe more.  While it does not have the reddish tint on the undersides of the leaf, it does have some reddish markings on the leaves.  I think Terri Stanley told me it was Musa 'Red Tiger', a strain of Musa sikkimensis which has those markings on the leaves.  Finally, the last two pictures are of Musa sikkimensis 'Bengal Tiger' which has much more pronounced markings on the leaves than even 'Red Tiger'.  I purchased three of those only last year from Plant Delights, so they are still fairly small plants.   All three of those 'Bengal Tigers' have dramatic markings on the leaves and to my way of thinking are going to be spectacular when they are fully grown.
     All my Musa sikkimensis plants have died completely to the ground each winter I have grown them.  This is in contrast to Musa basjoo which can keep some of its height over the winter if the winter is mild enough.  This characteristic of Musa sikkimensis may be why it is said that it is not as hardy as Musa basjoo.  However, despite the winter die-back of Musa sikkimensis, by this time of the year it generally has caught up with Musa basjoo in size.  It is also said that Musa sikkimensis does not get as big as Musa basjoo, but again, that has not been the case in my garden.  As you can see from the first picture above, this banana can get quite large if it is grown in conditions to its liking.  Those conditions seem to be fertile soil and lots of water.  That large banana in the picture is growing right over the drainfield and it seems to like that.
     I have been growing hardy bananas for almost 20 years, and in the first few years I grew them I constructed cages around their stems which I filled with dead leaves to protect them from the cold.  After a few years I gave up on this practice because I concluded it wasn't necessary.  I have never protected a banana in the winter since then and I have never lost a Musa basjoo to the cold nor a Musa sikkimensis.  Sometimes they may die down completely in the winter, but they always come back.  I have had my oldest Musa basjoo for 18 or 19 years. 
     With the demise of Heronswood and Mesogeo the go to source for Musa sikkimensis now seems to be Plant Delights.  I should note that in addition to Musa sikkimensis 'Bengal Tiger', they are offering a new species this year with an unpronounceable name of Musa xishuangbannaensis, or Mekong Giant banana.  It is supposed to be hardy to zone 7 and has a bright reddish purple trunk. It is described as a Musa basjoo on steroids.  With that description I wonder how I have resisted ordering it yet?  I need to remedy that oversight.
     Finally, I posted that third picture above--the bananas with the pots of begonias in front just to show you how big these begonias have gotten.  I previously blogged about Begonia boliviensis here.  There are two pots of this begonia in the picture above.  Each pot has only one plant in it and these were tiny plants that I purchased just last year in four inch pots.  Thus, you can see how big these can grow in a very short time with good living--I feed and water them regularly with Fox Farm.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nothopanax Delavayi

Nothopanax delavayi in bloom in my garden
     Another evergreen shrub or small tree in the great aralia family is Nothopanax delavayi.  This is a plant that Sean Hogan gave me a number of years ago in a small 4 inch pot and you can see from the picture that it has done quite well in my garden.  I should note that there does not seem to be agreement among the plant gurus I know as to the proper name for this shrub.  While Sean has told me again and again that it is indeed Nothopanax delavayi and that is what he says it is in his book  'Trees For All Seasons',  Dan Hinkley has told me that it is Metapanax delavayi and that is what he calls it in his book 'The Explorer's Garden- Shrubs and Vines'.  Well, whatever it is, it is a great shrub.
     As I said, it is in the aralia family so it is related to Scheffleras which I blogged about here; to Tetrapanax which I blogged about here; and to Sinopanax which I blogged about here.  There seem to be a lot of plants whose names end in panax and you can be sure that they will all be good plants.  In addition to the tetrapanaxes, sinopanaxes, and nothopanaxes, there are the metapanaxes, the dendropanaxes, the pseudopanaxes and the oplopanaxes.  Indeed, Oplopanax horridus is our own native panax which many a hiker in northwest woods knows as the Devil's Walking Stick.  I wouldn't be surprised if there are other panaxes that I am not familiar with.
     This Nothpanax which is growing in my garden has done very well and has never suffered from the cold in all the time I have grown it.  Sean says it is hardy to below 0 degrees F.  It looks good all year round.  In the winter, the leaves remain on it and stay green. In the spring the new growth has a reddish tint to it which is very attractive, and in late summer the flowers on it look good. When you walk by this shrub when it is in flower the sound of the bees buzzing as they gather its nectar is amazing.
     Nothopanax delavayi can be pruned much like you would prune a Fatsia, to which it is also related.  It can basically be cut down and growth will break from any branch.  It can be trained as a single trunked specimen or a multitrunked specimen as I have done.  It is growing in almost full sun in my garden, but it will also take shade, just like a Fatsia.
     If you wish to make this shrub more colorful, then I would suggest growing vines through it.  As you can see from the picture, I have tropaeolum speciosum growing in it.  Those are the red flowers you see in the right hand side of the picture.  I previously blogged about this vine here.  The red flowers you see in the lower left hand corner of the picture are those of Alstroemeria psittacina 'Variegata'.  The banana in the far right of the picture is a form of Musa sikkimensis which I will have a blog entry on in the future.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Nolina Nelsonii in Bloom!

Nolina nelsonii in bloom
     I have previously posted about Nolina nelsonii (here).  Well, just the other day I was out in my front border and lo and behold!, there was a bloom stalk starting up on one of my Nolina nelsoniis.  This is quite an occurrence because although I have been growing these for at least 15 years, this is the first time one has bloomed in my garden.  Earlier this year a big branch from one of the nearby Eucalyptus trees fell on top of this particular Nolina and perhaps it thought its end was near and that is what prompted it to send up this flower stalk!  In any event, none of my other 11 or 12 Nolina nelsoniis are showing any signs of blooming.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Echinopsis in flower in my garden

Overhead view of Echinopsis flower

View of entire Echinopsis plant and flower
     Last summer I bought a cactus plant from Bainbridge Gardens primarily because it had a lot of buds on it and was about to bloom.  I knew nothing about it.  It was grown by Monrovia and was labeled as Echinopsis oxygona.   It bloomed spectacularly last summer and now, as you can see from the pictures, it is blooming again.  This is the first bloom on it this summer, but it has a lot of buds on it, so hopefully there should be a lot more coming.  Based on my experience with this plant last summer, these blooms do not last much more than a day, so it is important to photograph them right away!
     I have read on the internet that this cactus is from Brazil,  Uruguay, and Argentina, and that it is fairly hardy, but I do not think it would be hardy here.  My speculation is that it would be too wet in the wintertime here for it to survive over the long run.  Anyway,  this plant is ideally suited as a pot plant and I can easily winter over cactus type plants in my sunroom because they can be kept dry over the winter.  I generally do not water my cactus plants in the winter while they are in my sunroom and they seem to do just fine.
     This is by far the most spectacular bloom I have had on any of my cactus and so I have decided that I need more of these.  Apparently Echinopsis generally have spectacular flowers and they come in many other colors. So I have been busy this morning bidding on various Echinopsis on eBay.
     I treat almost all of my cactus, agaves, puyas and other dryland plants which I grow in pots the same-- in the winter in my sunroom I do not water them.  In the summer, I do water them regularly and I do fertilize them regularly with Fox Farm.  I also pot them up to larger pots as needed.  I use a cactus mix for their potting soil to which I sometimes add more sand and grit.  The commercially available (retail) cactus mixes I do not think much of.  Specialty Soils which is a wholesaler near us which sells to most of the growers around here makes up an aloe mix which I think is very good for all these dryland plants and that is the best mix I know of.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Eucomis Pole-Evansii

Eucomis pole-evansii blooming in my garden
     There are so many great plants from South Africa and I have highlighted quite a few of them recently.  Eucomis, commonly known as pineapple lilies, are another such great plant.  One species of Eucomis that I particularly like is the one pictured here--Eucomis pole-evansii.  This is the largest of the pineapple lilies, making these large strap like leaves which can be in excess of three feet tall and then having the flowers rise above the leaves for one or two feet.  While you may have noticed that the flowers on this are greenish white,  I forgive this plant this one shortcoming because I like it so much.  Apparently there is a form of this Eucomis which has reddish or pinkish leaves and flowers called Eucomis pole-evansii purpurea (see here), but I have not yet acquired that form of it.  Of course it is on my must have list.
     I first learned about this Eucomis many years ago from Myles Challis' book on Exotic Gardening which I have previously described.  At the time I read about it in his book this plant was not available here.  When I was at Heronswood one day and found that they had some I was very excited and bought quite a few.  At that time it was thought that these bulbs were perhaps tender here, but we have since found out that they are perfectly hardy.  I still have some of those Eucomis that I bought from Heronswood when they first offered them, at least 15 years ago.  By now those bulbs are huge.
     I have grown this Eucomis from seed that I got from Silverhill Seeds and they proved very easy to grow.  Eucomis bulk up quite quickly if they are well watered and fed, so growing them from seed is not such a long term prospect as some other plants grown from seed.  Eucomis can also be propagated from leaf cuttings and that is the way to get more of select cultivars.  Eucomis pole-evansii is now offered by quite a few nurseries which a google search will reveal.
     I have grown this Eucomis in many parts of my garden and I conclude that all Eucomis, including this one are better is full sun because the foliage stands up instead of flopping around if they are in full sun.  They will tolerate some shade, however.  I remember seeing a slide show of Dan Hinkley's once where he showed Eucomis growing wild in South Africa and they were growing out in the open with no tall foliage around to shade them, so that gives you an idea of what conditions they like.
     I grow a number of Eucomis in my front border which is in full sun, is never watered, and which is visited by deer on a daily basis.  They do quite well in those conditions.  I have never had deer eat any of my Eucomis.  Slugs like them, however, so if you grow them where slugs are a problem be sure to bait for them.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Boophane Disticha

Boophane disticha in a pot in my garden
     Every once in a while a plant comes to my attention that catches my fancy and I must have it.  Boophane disticha, a bulb native to South Africa and other parts of Africa is the most recent plant for me to obsess over.  According to Wikipedia this bulb resembles both Haemanthus and Brunsvigia but it has been placed in a genus by itself.  There are 5 or 6  species in the genus according to the PlantzAfrica website.  The bulb is poisonous and the poisons have been used for medicine and to make the tips of arrows poisonous.  The name Boophane derives from Greek words which mean ox death, referring to the poisonous nature of the bulbs.  The second part of the name, disticha,  means leaves erect in a fan shape.  Good pictures of this bulb can also be found at Bihrmann's Caudiciform website.
     This bulb, which becomes quite large and which sits on top of the ground, also has very attractive blue green leaves which form this very nice fan over time.  It was this appearance of the bulb which first caught my attention--it looks very attractive even when not in bloom.  The bloom, however, also appears to be quite striking, being a large red allium like ball.
     I have known about this bulb for a few years, but last year I purchased Haemanthus albiflos from Cistus Nursery and it wintered over in my sunroom very successfully.  This bulb which has somewhat similar requirements to Boophane, gave me the idea that I could successfully grow Boophane in a pot and winter it in my sunroom.  According to what I have read on the internet, some Boophanes are from summer rain areas of South Africa and some are from winter rain areas.  The significance of this is that if you get a bulb from a summer rain area, you can grow it by keeping it outside in the summer and watering it then, so that it grows then, while in the winter you can keep it fairly dry in a sunroom. It is more difficult to winter over a winter growing bulb here.
     So after deciding I must have some Boophanes, I just had to find a source.  The first source I found was Telos Rare Bulbs which had small plants of both Boophane disticha and Boophane haemthoides (which, by the way, looks pretty good too).  So I ordered three of each and recieved them in good condition and they are growing well.  However, these were very small plants and would take a number of years to get to the size I want.
     So I found 2 other sources--Arid Lands Greenhouses and Out of Africa and I ordered plants from both.  The ones from Arid Lands were also small seedlings like the ones from Telos, but I got the one you see in the picture above from Out of Africa.  At the same time I was doing this searching I also noticed that Paul Christian Bulbs offered what looks like a large bulb of Boophane, but it is very expensive.  I might have to order it nonetheless.  Finally, I notice that San Marcos Growers, the big wholesale nursery near San Diego, has Boohane disticha in 3/5 gal. containers listed on the current availability list.  Oh, to be in San Diego!
     As for caring for these bulbs, if they are summer growers and I am going to assume all of mine are, I am growing them in fairly deep containers (they have extensive root systems from what I have read and like to be in deep pots) and watering and fertilizing them well in the summer.  In winter I will take them into my sunroom and keep them fairly dry.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cycas Revoluta

New growth on Cycas revoluta

Full view of Cycas revoluta
     I have mentioned in my post on Cypriprediums that they could be expensive annuals.  Well, in my gardening career the most expensive annuals I have grown have been cycads.  For those who don't know, cycads are a group of plants very primitive in origin which many uninformed people confuse with palms.  They are not palms, however, but are in their own grouping of plants.  There are over 200 different kinds of cycads, many of which are endangered species.  The most commonly grown cycad is the one pictured above--Cycas revoluta, also commonly known as Sago Palm (although it is not a palm).  Cycas revoluta, being so commonly grown. is not endangered.
     Many years ago when I first discovered cycads I became enamored of them and spent a lot of time and money trying to figure out if there were any that would be hardy in our climate.  The message boards concerning growing exotic plants in temperate climates were filled with discussion of which cycads might be hardy and how to find them.  I have spent what seems like a fortune in the quest to find a hardy cycad and I can now report to you that there are none that are hardy in our climate.  The dead cycads I have grown will attest to this fact.
     Although some nurseries in southern states, located in zone 8 just like us, say that some cycads are hardy for them, the difference in summer heat between those states and Bainbridge Island is what dooms cycads here.  There simply is not enough heat here for them to grow well if they are left outside year round.  To illustrate this difference in summer heat, in the recent heat spell which has gripped much of the country, our high temperature has been in perhaps the high 80s (Fahrenheit) and that only lasted for a day or two while other parts of the country have seen temperatures well above 100 for days on end.  Even Portland and the Willamette Valley only a few hours south of us have much more summer heat than we do.
     As of last year, after killing countless cycads, I was cycadless and so when I saw a fairly full and well grown Sago Palm at Bainbridge Gardens for a reasonable price, I bought it.  Several months ago I noticed that it was starting a new growth flush.  This was exciting, because even though I have grown many cycads in the past, they have rarely done well enough to put out new growth.  I believe cycads require heat and sun to put out new growth in our climate.  Of all the plants that I have grown cycads have most puzzled me about what they require to grow well since I have never succeeded in getting them to grow well.  So when I read somewhere on the internet that the Sago Palm appreciates lots of water and fertilizer when it is putting out new growth I seized on that tidbit and have been making sure it is well watered and have been generous with the Fox Farm fertilizer.  So far so good as you can see from the pictures.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Zantedeschia flower of unnamed plant

Looking down on the same flower
     Several years ago I got a Zantedeschia which had been grown from seed by my friend Terry Stanley.  She is a garden designer who used to live on Bainbridge Island, and now lives in Kingston, on the Kitsap Penninsula.  At the time I got the plant from her, she owned a nursery called Mesogeo, which specialized in Mediterranean plants and she grew many great and unusual plants from seed.
     This Zantedeschia, also known as calla lily, grew and bloomed well for a couple of years in a fairly damp, partly shaded spot in my garden right over the septic drainfield.  However, for the last couple of years, although it put out a great deal of foliage, which, by the way is spotted, it did not flower.  So this spring I dug up all the bulbs and found that it had greatly multiplied.  I got at least 50 bulbs from that one plant.  I replanted these bulbs, which had been very congested in their old location, into various places in the garden and all but the smallest of those bulbs are blooming now.
     When the flowers on this plant first open, they are a pale yellow, almost white.   If you look down into the flower you will see a dark throat in the center.  As the flower matures, the yellow gets deeper in color, eventually turning sort of mango colored.  As you can see, it is a very beautiful flower.
     In my gardening career I have grown a number of different calla lilies, including some of the white ones like the one called 'Crowborough'.  I have to say, that since it had white flowers and since it was eaten by the slugs I got rid of that plant.  I also once grew a lot of almost black flowered callas when dark flowers were in fashion.  I am not enamored of so called black flowers either, since they are hard to see in the garden and they are not colorful.  I like color, as I think I have said on more than one occasion, so out with the black flowers, too!  I do, however, love the orange flowered callas in particular, and I would not object to yellow or pink flowered ones either.
     Based on my experience growing these, they seem to do best in full sun in our climate in fairly damp soil.  The bulbs can rot, however, if the soil is not well drained enough.  They also seem to require dividing every few years, since if they get too congested they will not bloom well.  The plants I have in the garden now do not seem to be bothered much by slugs, but I use Sluggo regularly in the garden and that has cut down on the slug problems I used to have.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Eccremocarpus Scaber

Closeup of Eccremocarpus scaber growing up Trachycarpus trunk

Eccremocarpus growing up Trachycarpus trunk

Hummingbird resting near Eccremocarpus vine
     One of my favorite vines is Eccremocarpus scaber, also known as the Chilean glory flower or the Chilean glory vine.  I have been growing this vine in my garden for 15 or 20 years and I love it for the bright red-orange flowers that the hummingbirds love.  This vine is probably the number one hummingbird magnet in my garden and because it blooms for so long, it has been feeding them since early spring and probably will continue to do so well into late fall.
     Although this vine is called a perennial vine, it seems to come and go in the garden.  Some years it lives over the winter and is practically evergreen.  Other years it dies back in the winter and some years it dies completely over the winter.  Never fear if this happens, however, because it sets prolific amounts of seed and will self sow, usually near the parent.   These self sown seedlings can be moved when they are small and placed where you want them.
     In the first two pictures above I placed a couple of these seedlings near the trunk of a Trachycarpus which for some unknown reason had died.  Since to take out the trunk would have been a major operation, I thought I would use it as the scaffolding for vines and what better vine than Eccremocarpus?  The hairiness of these palm trunks makes a good thing for vines like this to grab hold of.  In fact, these trunks are good to train vines on even if the palm has not died!
     This vine comes in a couple of other colored flower versions.  There is a light pink flower, which I got once from Annies Annuals, but I thought the color was too insipid.  I think there is also a yellowish version, but I have not tried that one.  I like the bright orange red one so well, and the hummingbirds do too,  that I am not going to try any other colors.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wildflowers at Mt. St. Helens

Wildflowers on Johnston Ridge Trail at Mt. St. Helens
     I had to go to Portland yesterday, and so on my way home I visited Mt. St. Helens.  It was a beautiful day and the detour to the highest viewing point of the mountain--a place called Johnston Ridge--is only about an hour off the freeway.  There is a trail from the Johnston Ridge Observatory which is a very easy trail at the top of the ridge and there were a great many different kinds of wildflowers on the trail as you can see from the picture.  The most spectacular of these were what are commonly known as Indian paintbrush, the orange flowers in the picture.  At times on the trail there were Indian paintbrush almost as far as the eye could see.  Indian paintbrush's botanical name is Castilleja, but I don't know the exact species these were.  According to what I have read it is partly parasitic on the roots of nearby grasses.  You commonly see it at high altitudes in the Cascades at this time of the year.
     There were also a great deal of a blue flowered plant which is in the foreground of the image, but I do not know what it is.  I also saw a lot of lupines and a few penstemons. 
     This whole ridge was in the blast zone from the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 and it is interesting to see the vegetation return.  In addition to this vegetation, there were humingbirds way up there, busy feeding on the penstemons and also a lot of swallows.
     This was the second time I have visited here since the eruption, and it is a relatively uncrowded place with good roads and facilities.  I would recommend it as a good day trip.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tigridia Pavonia

Tigridia pavonia
     One of the flowers blooming in my garden now is Tigridia pavonia, also known as the Mexican shell flower.  This is a bulb from Mexico which I grew in my old garden on Fletcher Bay, but which I hadn't grown in my present garden until last year.  I think I just overlooked it until now, but since taking up photography, as I have mentioned before, my priorities on what makes a good garden plant have changed.  This plant, from a photography point of view, is spectacular.
     What I have just written makes it sound like this is not such a great plant were it not for the spectacular flowers, but that is not the case.  While each flower lasts only one day, enough flowers keep coming day after day, that you get about as long a bloom period as many other bulbs.  The plant is also relatively easy--just plant it in full sun and treat it like any other normal bulb in your garden.  I have it in a spot that not only is in full sun, but has good soil and is fairly moist.  I have not tried this bulb in a lot of other situations in the garden so I don't know how drought tolerant it is.
     I think I got the bulbs for this from a local retail nursery, but many mail order bulb nurseries also carry it.  In fact, I like it so well that I think I will order more bulbs. 
     The flowers on each plant vary somewhat. Some of them are red, some yellow.  Some have more mottling in the center; others do not have that.  Some have solid colored petals; others have a bicolor effect like the flower in the picture.  I understand from the internet that there are some that are more pink or purple, but none of mine are.  Since I love pink and purple, I am going to try to get some of those.
     I am told on the internet that this bulb is hardy to zone 8.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ensete Ventricosum 'Maurelii"

Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii' in my garden this morning
     Although it now may be a common plant in our gardens, I still love Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii" also known as the red Abyssinian banana.  What is not to love as you walk out in the garden on a sunny day like today and see its glowing reddish paddle shaped leaves making such a contrast with all the finer foliage around it?  It has always been a axiom of mine that the advantage of broad leaves is that they relieve the tedium of fine foliage and make everything in the garden 'pop'.  If you have an area of your garden that seems dull to you, just pop in a banana and, voila, you have an interesting garden!
     When I first learned about these bananas (there is also a plain green Abyssinian banana) they were not common plants in nurseries like they are now.  I had to order my first one from a mail order nursery in Louisiana.   I don't think they had tissue-cultured the plant then, but it is now commonly grown that way.  For those who don't know, tissue-culture is where a plant is propagated from a few cells in laboratory conditions.  Now days many, if not most, plants sold in vast quantities are grown from tissue-culture.
     My first knowledge of this plant came from a book by Myles Challis called 'The Exotic Garden'.  I think that that book was the instigating force in the tropical looking garden style which is prevalent now.  It certainly influenced me greatly.
     I have grown many of these ensetes over the years and have tried them every which way.  I have tried growing them in the ground and protecting them over the winter; I have tried growing them in the ground and digging them up and bringing them inside over the winter; I have tried growing them in pots and bringing them inside over the winter; and I have tried growing them in pots and leaving them outside over the winter.  Of these options, by far the best is to grow them in pots and bring them in over the winter.  Although you can sometimes get them to survive if they are grown in the ground, they don't get going again until very late in the season.  Since they are so easily available from nurseries and since they grow so fast, you might as well plant a new one each year if you want to grow them in the ground.  Pretend they are annuals. 
     You can also treat them as annuals if you grow them in pots.  Many people buy fuschia baskets each year and treat those as annuals, and an ensete is no more expensive than a fuschia basket, so why not treat the ensete as an annual also?  It certainly makes more of an impact in the garden than a fuschia.
     The ensete in the picture was one I bought earlier this year.  It was in a five gallon pot and cost around 50 dollars.  I planted it in one of my larger pots and have been making sure that it gets plenty of water and fertilizer (Fox Farm, of course).  While I have been making sure my plant gets plenty of water, they are relatively tolerant of less water.  In other words, if you go away on a vacation and do not water for a week or two, they will not die, nor will they look bad after that treatment. This is particularly true if they are grown in a large enough pot.  My plant has probably doubled in size since I got it.  These plants are easy care in the summer time, but if you bring them inside over the winter, they tend to get aphids if they remain in full growth.  You can also cut off all the leaves when you bring them inside and basically let them go dormant by not watering them much.  They can even be kept in an unheated garage as long as it does not get below freezing in the garage.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gladiolus Gandavensis 'Boone'

Gladiolus gandavensis 'Boone'
     The title of this blog entry might more appropriately have been 'Beware of Gladiolas'.   I have a love-hate relationship with this gladiola.  When it blooms, I admire it and think what a great color it is.  But when it comes up all over my garden I think what a weed it is.  I should add that I have said the same about many other gladiolas, so my advice on them is to be careful about what you plant.
     In any event, I got this glad many years ago from Heronswood.  I notice that Plant Delights still offers it, but they call it Gladiolus dalenii 'Boone', rather that G. gandavensis 'Boone'.   That may be the proper name for all I know.  The blurb in their catalog notes that it multiplies obscenely fast so that you will have plenty to share.  Well said!
     As I said, this glad seeds itself all over the garden and it grows almost everywhere except deep dark shade.  It is an easy plant and is supposed to be hardy to zone 6 at least.  
     Since I have taken up photography, my standards for what plants I want in the garden have changed somewhat.  As applied to this glad, this means that it has received a stay of execution since I like to photograph it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Giant Lobelias!

Lobelia giberroa in center right of picture

Lobelia giberroa in pot
     I have been seriously lusting after giant lobelias ever since I first learned of their existence five or six years ago.  These are plants that look totally unlike any lobelia a normal gardener has ever encountered.  They are native to alpine regions of East Africa, such as on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. If you google images for giant lobelias you will get pictures such as are found here and here.   Of course, as with many of these giant rosette type plants which are endemic to high altitudes in tropical climates (such as Espeletias, described here, from South America, the silversword plant from Haleakala on Maui, described here, and Dendrosenecios, also from East Africa, described here), seed is virtually impossible to obtain.
     So when I visited Far Reaches Farm earlier this year and Kelly casually mentioned that they had a giant lobelia--Lobelia giberroa- for sale, my heart just about stopped.  And, of course, I bought three of them.  The tag said Lobelia giberroa is from the mountain forests of Ethiopia and that the plant would get to be 5 to 8 feet tall on a single stem. If and when it flowered the flower would add an additional 6 to 10 feet of greenish white flowers to the tower.  Kelly told me that the seeds for these had been received from some alpine society collection.
     Lobelia giberroa does seem to be more available in commerce than any of the other giant lobelias, such as Lobelia deckenii and Lobelia telekii.  I notice that Annie's Annuals has offered it in the past, although they do not seem to have it available right now.  I also notice that Sivlerhill Seeds has offered it in the past,  and if you google Lobelia giberroa seeds, you will find some sources for seed such as here.
     As for successfully growing this plant in our climate, well, we shall see.  So far all has been good.  I have had these plants now for about 3 months, and based on what I have read about them online, I have been making sure they remain well- watered and fertilized.  I have been using a liquid fertilizer called Fox Farm fertilizer.  It is organic and I think it was developed to promote growth in marijuana plants, although that is just speculation on my part. In any event,  Fox Farm is definitely a good fertilizer and I would recommend it.  I fertilize with a weak solution of this every couple of weeks and the plants seem to be grateful for this. I put one of my 3 plants in a very large pot right off the bat and the other 2 were left in much smaller pots.  The one in the large pot has grown much more than the 2 in smaller pots.
     These plants are probably not hardy in our climate, so the winter time will be the challenging period in growing them.  That is why I left 2 of the plants in smaller pots--I did not want to have to move large pots into my sunroom.  I assume, based on the tropical look of these plants that they would die if I did not water them in the winter while they are in my sunroom.  Therefore, they will need much more care in the winter than I am accustomed to giving my nonhardy plants.  I am determined, however, to do what I can to help them survive.
     By the way, I noticed while researching this plant that one of my favorite blogs, Danger Garden, had a piece on giant lobelias a while ago. Here is the link.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wildflowers at Crater Lake

Crater Lake with Wizard Island at sunset

Wildflower meadow near Crater Lake with my sister

Wildflower meadow closer up

Path through wildflower meadow showing water flowing through

Mimulus lewisii

Mimulus lewisii closeup
     I just got back from our camping trip to Crater Lake National Park and Mt. Lassen National Park.  The first picture above is from the rim of Crater Lake one night at sunset.  It is a beautiful place, well worth the visit.  The weather while we were there was great--in the 80's during the day, but dropping into the 40's at night.  Crater Lake at the rim is above 7000 ft. so it gets quite cold at night.
     We took a number of short hikes in the park, and one of them was in a place called the wildflower garden and it was aptly named.  All the wildflower pictures above are from that place.  As you can see, it is an open meadow set on a slope, with lots of water running through it.  That wetness probably accounts for the lushness of the flower growth.
     The most showy flower in the meadow was Mimulus lewisii,  named for Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. This flower occurs in the western mountain ranges, such as the Cascades, Sierra Nevadas, and Rocky Mountains at elevations above 4000 ft.   Many years ago I bought a plant of this from Wells Medina Nursery, but at the time I did not understand what the plant would do or its growing requirements, so it did not survive in my garden.  I can now see that it likes moisture and sun at the very least.  It probably would not appreciate getting too much heat, but that is only a guess.
     Looking on the internet, it is apparent that the plant can be found at various native plant nurseries.  I also notice that Annies Annuals carries a cross between Mimulus lewisii and Mimulus cardinalis, which might perform better in garden conditions than the straight species, although, again, that is only a guess.  The cross is not in stock now at Annies Annuals, but I put it on my wish list.
     There were lots of other wildflowers at Crater Lake, many of them growing in scree conditions.  Unfortunately, my camera blew over in a gust of wind while I was photographing on the rim and it broke, so all pictures after that had to be shot with my iphone camera.  I may be posting some of those pictures tomorrow if I can get them to look halfway decent.