Saturday, September 28, 2013

Off To Kauai!

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

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Big Pot

Big pot on the back terrace

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

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chusquea Couleou Seedlings

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

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Yucca Gloriosa 'Variegata'

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Yucca Linearifolia 'Dusky Blue'

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Yucca Rostrata

Yucca rostrata in my front border with Melianthus major behind it

     I love the spiky plants which one sees everywhere in Palm Springs and Arizona and, happily, I can report to you that many of them will do quite well in our much wetter climate.  Probably my favorite of these, and one which does very well here, is Yucca rostrata, seen in the top picture above.  I have grown quite a few of these over the years.  When I first became aware of these--probably from Sean Hogan-- they weren't very available here in the Pacific Northwest, and the only way I found to get large ones was to order them as trunked plants which were bare root.  In actuality, when I received an order of these bare root plants from some (probably shady) grower in Texas, they had no roots, just bare trunk.  So I put them in soil and waited, and after about a year or two they did indeed regrow their roots.  At least some of them did.  Others eventually died, but some lived and I grew one in a pot on one of my back terraces for more than 15 years.  It never suffered from cold damage in all that time and I never did anything to protect it from the cold. I recently gave it to a friend since I didn't want to move it myself (it was very large) and I was trying to simplify the garden in anticipation of its sale.
     The Yucca rostrata you see in the picture is one I got from Dig Nursery on Vashon.  Dig is one of my favorite nurseries and I have gotten an amazing number of great plants from them over the years. Anyway, the Yucca rostrata I got from them was a relatively small one--it was in a 5 gal. pot and it had no trunk.  I had been under the misapprehension that it would take years and years for it to form a trunk, but, in fact, within 3 years you could see the trunk forming and the plant in the picture with its nice trunk is probably 10 or 12 years later.  So the moral of this story is, you don't need to spend a fortune on large yucca rostratas--they will grow at a gratifying rate so you could, if you wanted, start with smaller plants.  If, on the other hand, you want instant gratification, a number of nurseries in the Pacific Northwest now carry trunked specimens from time to time.  Probably the best nursery I know of for this is Cistus on Sauvie Island.
     A number of years ago Sean Hogan, aka the Yucca King, grew some yucca rostatas from seed, and one of his selections from that seed batch is now widely grown as Yucca Rostrata 'Sapphire Skies'.  This plant was tissue cultured by Terra Nova for a while and they had some nice specimens in their display garden.  It apparently is no longer offered by them, but it is available for purchase from a number of other nurseries which a google search will reveal.  In my new garden I intend to search out Sapphire Skies, and that is the Yucca Rostata form I intend to grow. I will want to plant at least three of these in my new garden.  If I can't find large trunked specimens at a reasonable price I will happily settle for 5 gal. plants. 
     In the picture above, you see part of a Yucca linearifolia in the lower left hand corner, another favorite yucca of mine.  You can also see an Echium amoenum behind the yucca rostrata. I wrote about that plant here.  There is also the green of a Stipa barbata which I recently cut back near the trunk of the yucca.  I will have a future post on this grass. Finally, you can see some of the colchicums which I wrote about in my last post.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Colchicum Season

Colchicums with Nolina nelsoniis in my front border

Closeup of colchicum patch
     As I wrote last year here, I have been spreading colchicums around my garden at Froggy Bottom and this year the display has been magnificent. I mentioned in that previous post that one good place to put colchicums is under and around spiky plants such as Nolinas, Dasylirions, and Yuccas.  In the picture above you can see how good they look with the bluish pink of the flower contrasting with the bluish green of the Nolina foliage.  If I were still going to be gardening at Froggy Bottom, I would continue the spreading of these colchicums around these plants so that the entire front border would be a sea of colchicum flowers in late August and early September.  Wouldn't that be a spectacle!
     I have also found that another good companion plant for colchicums is the California Poppy, particularly the orange ones. In another bed where I have both plants growing, the Colchicums appear interlaced with the frothy texture of the Californai poppy while the orange of the bloom makes a nice color combo with the electric pink of the colchicums.  I should mention that these were poppies which had their main bloom period earlier in the spring and which I cut back more than a month ago.  Now they are having a second flush of bloom.  I love that bright orange/electric pink color combo even though I have read books which claim that such a combo is a no-no for "tasteful" gardeners.  Those kind of gardeners are the ones who adore white gardens, so I don't give much credence to their views.
     I should also mention that these colchicums are growing in a part of my garden that (1) is frequented by deer, and (2) is never watered, yet you can see that they do not suffer from either condition.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Amaryllis Belladonna

Closeup of Amaryllis belladonna flower in my garden now

These Amaryllis belladonna flowers are from 3 bulbs which I planted about 10 years ago
     About 10 years ago we visited Mendocino, California in August and it seemed like everywhere we looked there were Amaryllis belladonnas just like the ones in the picture in bloom.  So at the Mendocino Botanical Garden I bought 3 huge bulbs and when I got home, planted them in a fairly dry and inauspicious spot in my front border.  They didn't do very much for several years, but after that I got more and more blooms until the flowering display you see in the pictures was achieved.  Until we cut the Eucalyptus trees in the front border, these bulbs were growing in their shade and so, freed from that gloom, this year they have put on their most magnificent display ever.
     For those who are not familiar with this bulb, it is not the Amaryllis which are grown as seasonal bulbs inside at Christmas. Rather, this is a bulb which is hardy in our climate. It hails from South Africa (where else?) and is sometimes referred to as 'Naked Lady' because it blooms when the foliage is dormant. Just like colchicums, the foliage comes up in spring and goes dormant in mid summer.  Using the term 'Naked Lady' often leads to confusion because both Nerines and Lycoris are sometimes referred to as 'Naked Ladies' also.
    The most commonly found color for this bulb is the one pictured above, but it also comes in colors ranging from white to almost red. I recently found bulbs of those other colors offered by Bill the Bulb Baron and so I ordered some of his reds which he describes as a dark hot pink with some shade of purple which sounds like it is exactly the kind of color I love. I just received these bulbs yesterday--I ordered them last Thursday or Friday, so I think he immediately shipped them upon receipt of my order.  The bulbs arrived in very good condition and I must say they are impressively large. So I would highly recommend ordering from him if you want something other than the run of the mill Amaryllis belladonna.
     On his website, Bill the Bulb Baron (I love saying that) says that these bulbs, which certainly can take summer drought, as they do in my front border, will also do well in areas that get more summer moisture, including in a border or beside a watered lawn.  He also says that their main requirement is not full shade or close to it. Otherwise, anything goes. I wouldn't plant them in a swamp, though. 
     These flowers look very similar to those of Amarcinums, which I have also grown.  These are a cross between Crinums and Amaryllis belladonna, and while their flower is similar to that of the Amaryllis, their foliage is more like that of a Crinum, in that it is pretty much evergreen.  I like the straight Amaryllis belladona better, because, at least in our climate, the foliage of the Amarcrinum can be tatty looking.  The flowers of the Amaryllis belladona look cleaner to my eye because they are coming straight up from the ground with no foliage.
     This also brings up the subject of Crinums.  I have tried growing many of these, but never warmed up to them.  I love them when I see them in Hawaii but in our climate you never get the abundance of blooms that you get with Amaryllis belladonna, and you get this large mound of unkempt looking foliage.  So, I do not grow Crinums and intend to give them a miss in the future.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hedychium 'Tara'

Large stand of Hedychium 'Tara' blooming in my garden now
     I have grown lots of hardy gingers in my garden over the years and. by far and away, the best has been Hedychium 'Tara'.  According to the San Marcos website,  this plant was grown from seed collected in Nepal by Tony Schilling of Kew Gardens, and named for his daughter. That website indicates that it was thought to be a form of Hedychium coccineum originally, but has recently been classified as H. gardnerianum. It is also sometimes listed as H. densiflorum.  This can get very confusing, so I just call it Tara and forget about the specific species name. This plant has received an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS, meaning it is a good garden plant for the UK, and that, of course, means it is a good garden plant for us in the maritime Pacific Northwest.
     Over the years I have seen many Hedychiums sold in nurseries here in the Pacific Northwest, many of which have originated in California.  Almost all those hedychiums are destined never to bloom in our cool summer climate. Indeed, I once calculated that if a ginger listed in the Plant Delights catalog (it has an extensive hedychium list) bloomed after June in North Carolina that it simply would not bloom here. While I have had a couple of other gingers bloom a few times, almost none, except Tara, and a smaller one called Stephen, reliably bloom here.
     I got my Tara plant originally from Glenn Withey and Charles Price who visited my garden a long time ago and gave me a large pot of it.  Over the years I have divided it and planted it in many parts of the garden.  The picture you see is the result of placing four or five divisions in this spot and then letting them grow for a number of years.  This is a sunny, rather sandy location, but I have found that Tara is remarkably tolerant of different soil and light conditions.  However, if you want it to do really well, I would plant it in a sunny location and give it lots of water and fertilizer.  That said, I never fertilize my Taras and they seem to do OK.  Also, I have some that grow in relatively dry conditions and they seem to do well there, too.
     I should mention that Tara is such a good, easy plant to grow, and it makes this great dazzling show of color at a time when the garden needs some punch, so it has made the cut and will be going with me to my new garden.  It is available from a number of online sources which are revealed by a google search of Hedychium Tara.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Agave geminiflora

Agave geminiflora
     In my last post which featured Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii" I noted that one of the plants in a pot in front of the banana was Agave geminiflora.  So today I am posting another picture of that agave, taken last year amongst some of my other potted pets.  Most people would not recognize this plant as an agave, since the leaves are rather grass like and not stiff.  I have grown other agaves, such as Agave striata, which also has narrow, grass like leaves, but on that agave they are held much more stiffly and are much more wicked.  I like this one the best of all the agaves I have grown because its bright green color and rubbery pliant leaves make it a star once its gets to a decent size.  I have found that it is quite tolerant of being kept in a pot smaller than the diameter of the rosette, and, in fact, it looks best this way because then the leaves sort of spill over the edges of the pot. 
     I got this plant when it was relatively small from Cistus Nursery.  I think I have had it for about 10 years, although I could be off by a year or two.  I have potted it up to larger pots several times in its life, and I think it will probably require a larger pot in a year or two.  As I have mentioned before, I now pot all my wicked plants in clay pots that I can break with a hammer when I repot.  Otherwise, they are too difficult to remove from the pot.  Nice fancy pots are all well and good until it comes time to repot the plants that are in them, particularly when those plants are agaves or puyas!
     I used to have a huge collection of 'Pets' that I kept in pots, but with our move and the general decluttering of the house and garden that goes along with putting a house on the market, I have gotten rid of most of them.  This agave, however, has made the cut and will be coming to our new house. I should mention that there is really no place to store non-hardy plants over the winter at the new place, but I will think of some way to protect this agave!  Some other plants that have made the cut are my Cussonia and Boophanes.