Saturday, June 28, 2014


Schizanthus blooming in the potager at Heronswood
     Another one of the more successful annuals we are growing in the potager at Heronswood is Schizanthus.   This annual is native to Chile, and is a member of the solanaceae or nightshade family.  I have previously grown these in my garden on Bainbridge, and they had done well and bloomed for a very long time.  After reading about them on the internet, I conclude that they are particularly good in our climate, since they apparently don't like too much heat, and they don't require full sun to do well. 
     The one in the picture above is one we grew from a seed strain called 'Angel Wings',  which we obtained from Outsidepride.  This is, according to Wikipedia, a cross between S. pinnatus, and S. grahamii, called Schizanthus x. wisetonensis.  Unfortunately, it is a mixed color seed strain, and we got many plants with a very pale pink or almost white flower.  As I explained yesterday, I do not like to use those pale colors.  They just do not fit in with our color scheme in the potager.  What I would like is a seed strain with the color you see in the picture.  I searched the internet in vain, though, to find such a strain.  We may have to create our own at Heronswood.  We could call it the Heronswood strain of Schizanthus!
     We also purchased some plants of Schizanthus grahamii from Annies Annuals for the poatager.  If you click on the Annie's link you will see what that plant looks like.  Although the pictures of it are very attractive, I do not think it is as good a garden plant as those of the Angel Wings Strain (provided you have a plant in the right color) because the flowers are more sparse than those on the Angel Wings plants, and because it seems to have a shorter bloom time.  I do like S. grahamii, though, and I intend to get seed of it for next year, despite these differences. 
     In researching the question of whether there was a solid magenta color seed strain of Schizanthus, I came across pictures of Schizanthus litoralis here.  These pictures showed this species, which is a very attractive purplish pink color, covering a hillside in Chile.  So I have resolved to get seed of this species for next year.  I think I might be able to get seed from Chileflora.
     There are also a number of dwarf strains of Schizanthus on the market and those are usually what you find at most retail nurseries.  Those are fine for containers and baskets, but do not work so well in a situation such as the potager, where plants have to be taller than the hedges surrounding each bed.  Some of those dwarf strains come in straight colors instead of mixed color strains.  There are also some other seed strains, as evidenced by the Schizanthus offered in the Chiltern catalog.  I think we may have to try some of those seed strains next year. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Orange Is The New White aka Ursinia Anthemoides 'Solar Fire'


      Often when one mentions that a particular flower is bright orange, the first reaction of many gardeners is to recoil in horror.  I think this reaction is based first on the idea that used to be prevalent in garden writing that white and pastel gardens were tasteful, and that bright colors were low class, and second, on the idea that colors could be viewed in isolation, instead of being viewed in a painterly way, i.e., how a particular color contributes to the scene one is trying to create.  I should also state that I am not trying to be a color Nazi--anything I say about color is merely a reflection of my own taste.  I think everyone is entitled to their own taste when it comes to color.  There is no right or wrong in picking color--it is just what one finds to be attractive.
     With that said, what I am describing here is how I go about using color in the garden.  As it happens, and as regular readers of this blog probably know, I like bright colors that are (if you are familiar with photoshop) in the CMYK color space.  This means that I like saturated color that consists of lemony yellows, clear oranges, bright pinks/magentas, turqouise blues, and purples.  Since I like saturated colors, I don't like to use whites or pastels in my compositions.  I also don't like to use reds that are not on the pink side of the color wheel, and I don't like to use navy type blues. but clear sky blues are acceptable.  As for yellows, while I prefer lemon yellows to more orangy yellows, any type of saturated yellow is acceptable in a compostion.
     I should also say something here about the use of greens in my compositions.  When I first started gardening, and for a long time afterwords, I was enamored of variegated plants.  I have now mostly gotten over that, and the reason has mainly to do with how variegated plants 'read' in a compostiion.  White variegated plants often read as white, and, since I don't like to use white,  I have basically concluded that the white variegated plants, although individually attractive in many cases, do not enhance the garden pictures I am trying to create. So I stopped using them.  Yellow variegated plants, on the other hand, can read as yellow, and therefore, are more acceptable.  However, I have found that even they should be used in moderation, or else there will be too much yellow in the garden.   The same goes for yellow foliage plants--use them in moderation or the garden may OD on yellow.  As for red foliage,  I think that some in moderation is OK, but the brighter the red the better--otherwise, the eye just sees a dark dead space when it rests upon that foliage.  In my compositions, I like the vast majority of foliage to be bright green.  I find that that color is the background for everything else, and it sets off the other colors I like to use best.
     Anyway, this brings us to orange and Ursinia anthemoides 'Solar Fire'.  This is a plant that I was first introduced to by Annie's Annuals.  Their description of it is here.  This is a South African native, and you can read more about it at the Plantzafrica website here.  That site and also the Silverhill Seeds site (a seed company specializing in South African seeds) seem to indicate that the color of the flowers of Ursinia anthemoides can vary somewhat, but the plants we have grown all seem to be the bright orange seen in the pictures above.  Which is a good thing, in my opinion.  By the way, we grew our Heronswood plants from seed we got from Outsidepride, and I would recommend them as a source--they send a lot of seed in a packet, in a timely manner, and it germinated well.
     These Ursinias have these bright orange daisy flowers which bloom for a very long time above attractive ferny foliage.  As is evident from the pictures above, they seem to go well with all other colors in the Potager, and indeed, they seem to make those other colors pop.  And that is why I titled this blog entry 'Orange Is The New White'!  It used to be that writers on color in the garden always spouted the nonsense that one had to have white in the garden in order to have a place to 'rest the eyes'.  What does that even mean?  How many paintings or other works of art require white as a place to 'rest the eyes'?  If you need such a place (and I doubt that you do) isn't the orange of Ursinia anthemoides 'Solar Fire' a much better resting place?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Heronswood Potager Project Report

Potager at Heronswood with delphiniums
Ursinia anthemoides

Petunia integrifolia with Ursinia anthemoides

Calendulas starting to bloom in the potager

Schizanthus with Ursinia

    Those of you who see my Facebook posts know that I have been working at Heronswood on a project to create a planting scheme in the Potager.  As many of you already know, the potager is a section at Heronswood that was originally created for a vegetable garden.  It consists of 8 beds, in a geometric pattern, each surrounded by a dwarf boxwood hedge.  Most of these 8 beds are in full sun, although 2 of them are a little bit more shaded than the others.  There were 4 large clumps of edible rhubarb in 4 of these beds, and in the other 4, there were established cardoons.  It was decided to leave these existing plants in place, although I think that it has now been decided that these will be removed for next year.  The rhubarb looks bad later in the summer, so it does not help the picture we are trying to create, while the cardoons seem to not be doing so well, and they also need to be cut back at a time when the rest of the plantings should be going strong.
     So, to get to the point, the plan for the potager is to create a wildflower meadow look, using annuals we have grown from seed.  We also bought some plants from Annie's Annuals just so we could get the beds going earlier than if we just planted our own seedlings.  Structure was to be provided by planting Musa Sikkimensis in each of the beds which would provide a nice big broad leafed contrast to the fine and fussy foliage of the annuals.  Dan Hinkley gave divisions from his plant to the garden for this purpose, and they are all growing happily now, albeit still small.
     All the delphiniums that I had at Froggy Bottom, and which I wrote about here and here, have been brought to Heronswood and planted in these beds. These have done so well and are so spectacular that plans are afoot to grow more of them from seed and plant more in these beds for next year.  We have also planted in excess of 200 orienpet lilies (I described these here) in these beds, both to act as stakes for the delphiniums, which I previously described here, and to add even more punch to these borders.  Once these lilies get going (they will not reach their full size for another year or two), it should be like walking into a fragrant forest of lilies when entering the potager in lily season!
     We devised a slightly different scheme for the 2 more shady beds, involving using aconitums instead of delphiniums, and planting divisions of Hedychium 'Tara' (previously described here) from Froggy Bottom.  We did not think the delphiniums would do well in the shade of those beds, but we have now revised our view, realizing that those two beds are sunnier than first thought.  So delphiniums will go there next year, instead of the aconitums.  We also thought that the annuals would not do well in those two beds because of the shade, but we are now realizing that they will do just fine.  We found that out because we planted many of them in those two beds, and they grow and bloom, despite its being less sunny than in the other beds.
      As for the annuals we are growing, a conscious decision was made to use as many west coast natives as would meet our criteria as we could.  Therefore, more than half the annuals we are growing are California (and maybe Oregon and Washington) natives.  It is actually hard to find annuals that are native to the Kitsap Pennisula.  I do not even know if there are any.
      You may ask what our criteria for choosing these annuals were.  Well, first of all, they had to be between one and three feet tall to grow up above the boxwood hedges. Second,  they had to be plants that would commingle well.  Finally, they had to be in jewel tones with a fairly even spread between yellows/oranges, blues/purples, and pinks/magentas.  No whites allowed!  Anyway, this post is getting to be too long as it is, so I will have a post another day describing exactly which seeds we ordered and how I think they have done.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Eriogonum umbellatum 'Sulphur Yellow"

Eriogonum umbellatum 'Shasta Sulphur' in my new garden
     Those of you who have spent hours studying the offerings on the Annie's Annuals website, as I have, probably know that Annie's offers a number of eriogonums, commonly known as buckwheats.  Although I wasn't familiar with these until I ordered some from Annie's a couple of years ago, it appears that the eriogonums are a very large genus, second only to penstemons in the number of species for North American natives.  They are native almost all over the United States except in the northeast.  If you are interested in butterflies, it appears that eriogonums are plants to have in your garden.  There are a number of eriogonums that are hosts for butterflies, some of them endangered butterflies, as described here
     Late last summer I ordered some of these plants from Annie's, including three of the one in the picture above, Eriogonum umbellatum 'Shasta Sulphur'.  The description of the plant, along with better pictures than I have, is here.  Since I foolishly ordered these very late in the summer, and I didn't get around to planting them, they stayed in their Annie's pots all winter, out in the cold and rain, with no protection whatsoever.  I was amazed to see that they made it through the winter unscathed, and now that I have planted them, they are flowering and doing well.
     According to the Annie's blurb, they make a tidy mound of evergreen foliage 1 foot high and 3 feet across and have these sulpher yellow flowers starting in the spring and lasting until late summer.  That sounds pretty good to me!  The shade of yellow of the flowers is another quality that I particularly like.  It is the sort of yellow that makes blues, pinks and oranges just pop. 
     I have ordered a couple more eriogonums and in the future I will report to you on how they have done.  In the meantime, if you are interested, you can check out the website of the Eriogonum Society.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tropaeolum polyphyllum report

Tropaeolum polyphyllum with pink California poppies
     I have previously posted about Tropaeolum polyphyllum here and here, and today I am going to report on what has been happening in that bed near the lionness at Froggy Bottom where I have this exquisite plant.  First of all, I have been excavating in the bed, trying to find tubers of the tropaeolum so that I can have some for the new garden.  As I said in my earlier posts, this plant is hard to find in nurseries, and so I particularly needed to dig up some tubers.  I did manage to find some, but let me tell you, they are not all that easy to find! Anyway, even though that digging seemed to commit mayhem in this area, by now, you could hardly tell that any digging had been done.  I think this tropaeolum is the sort of plant that is somewhat difficult to get started in a garden, but once it is, it is pretty much there to stay. 
     Other developments in this bed are that the pink California poppies that I had wanted to get started here have, in fact, been established, and I think they go well with the tropaeolum flowers.  They will have the added bonus of extending the season in the bed because they will bloom longer than the tropaeolum, and they will bloom again if cut back after their first bloom.  You can see that an orange flowered poppy has also invaded the bed.  That is what happens with these poppies, I have found.  Other colors sometimes pop up, particularly if you have a number of different color strains in your garden like I do.
     Other plants in this bed include Scilla peruviana, which I previously wrote about here.  You can see one of the last of these blooms in the upper left hand corner of the photo.  This year the bloom time of the scillas was earlier than that of the tropaeolum, and I suspect that will almost always be the case.  I also planted some Yucca linearifolias in this bed and you can see one of them in the upper left of the picture.  Finally, some alstromerias which I wrote about here have seeded themselves into this bed and in a few years will probably take it over, unless something is done about them.  I haven't yet decided what I will do with them, if anything.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

More Eremurus

Front Border at Froggy Bottom with Eremurus 'Spring Valley Hybrids'
     I previously wrote about Eremurus here, and I can't praise this great plant enough! While it is blooming, there are very few plants that match its magnificence.  Although I have taken a lot of the eremurus in this border to my new garden, there are still enough left to make quite an impact.  The ones in the picture above came from Brent and Becky's Bulbs or McClure and Zimmerman as their Spring Valley Hybrids.  There is also an orange eremurus to the left in the picture that you can see poking up behind the Nolina foliage.  That one is called Cleopatra, and it is commonly found in bulb supplier's catalogs.  It is not quite as tall as some of the others I have grown, although its color makes a standout in any garden.
     Other plants in this picture include Nolina nelsonii (on the left in the picture), Dasylirion wheeleri in the bottom center, Nasella tenuissima, Papaver somniferum, Salvia nemerosa (a cultivar that I lost the name of--but I think it is better than the usual), Echium vulgare (the blue flowered plant),  Onopordum ancanthium, the tall grey plant on the upper right. and Verbascum bomyciferm.  This is a border that is loved by the bees, and this year many of them seem to be busy with these flowers.  I love it!  I should mention that although the echium is supposed to be a noxious weed, it is considered by many to be one of the best bee plants around, and the honey from this plant is supposed to be excellent.  While I don't want to get hate mail, I sometimes question the whole noxious weed control zeitgeist.  If you don't like my philosophy on this, please do not post any comments, as I will probably delete them.
     Another point to make about this border is that it did not come about overnight.  It has taken many years of experimenting with various plants and many years of allowing self sowers to become established to achieve this result.  In my view no garden is really good until it has been established for awhile.  Sure, given enough money you can make something that might look presentable in its first or second year, but that is not the same as establishing what is essentially a self sustaining community of compatible plants that, by the way, look beautiful together.  This kind of gardening, and not the instant pictures so popular on TV makeover shows, is what I find interesting.  Anyway, enough with the ranting for today!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

New Garden In Progress

My new garden, a work in progress
     I have been spending most of my time keeping up my old garden at Froggy Bottom, on Bainbridge, but I have managed to get a little bit done at our new house in Port Ludlow.  This house is on a half acre lot, but the back part of the lot slopes steeply down into a woodland and protected wetland.  That leaves only the front and side areas of the lot available for gardening.  The picture above is of a long area on the south side of the house where I have been concentrating my efforts. This bed is actually quite large, larger than it seems in the picture, because I used a telephoto lens which has the effect of condensing distances. The bed is in full day sun, and is slightly mounded.
      The first thing I had to do in preparation for planting this area was to remove the absolutely awful plants that the developer had put in.  This included a bunch of sickly nondescript rhododendrons, 3 large maples that would have gotten huge and shaded everything (I don't want shade), and 3 (also sickly) deodor cedars, which, by the way, become huge trees.  It seems as if every single house in our subdivision has multiple deodor cedars, so perhaps I am breaking some unwritten rule by taking these out!
     After removing the existing vegetation, I had to decide what to do about the soil--it is terrible! The reason all the existing plants were so sickly is that the soil was so poor.  They had all been there for over 5 years, yet they had not put on any noticeable growth, and they were all very yellow.  Based on my experience at Froggy Bottom, I knew that any soil can eventually be improved by the addition of compost.  I also knew that it was not necessary to dig it in--all one has to do is mound it on top of the soil, and given enough time, the soil creatures will do the work for you.  So that is what I did.  I bought 10 yards of compost and put it on top of the bed.
     My planting plan for this area is to create a drought tolerant, deer resistant (we have deer and lots of other wildlife here) fairly natural looking border.  I intend to use yuccas, dasylirions , and, hopefully, nolinas to provide winter interest, along with Rhodocoma capensis.  I have planted three Rhus 'Tiger Eyes' at regular intervals to provide shrubby height--I don't want any tall trees, but the Rhus will give some height, and I think their foliage fits in very well with the look I am going for.
     Other plants I have put into this area include lots of eremurus from my old garden, Eryngium alpinum and Eryngium 'Blue Jackpot", Amaryllis belladonna, Dictamnus albus var. purpureas, Echium russicum,  Verbascum bombyciferum, Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy', Anenome coronaria, California poppies, and Eriogonum umbellatum 'Shasta Sulphur".  The latter is a plant I got last year from Annie's Annuals and it did well over the winter and is now producing very pleasing citrus yellow flowers.  Eriogonums are plants found all over the western United States which are recently being discovered by gardeners to be good garden plants for drought tolerant, wildlife friendly gardens.  I am also going to try to get self sowers going in this bed, and I intend to try out lots of more unusual western natives here.
     I have discovered that there is almost no full shade at this new garden, and that is how I want it.  I am so over all those weedy looking woodland plants! 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Verbascum Bombyciferum Revisited

Self Sown Verbascum bombyciferum in the front border at Froggy Bottom

     I wrote about Verbascum bombyciferum last year here.  This year I am even more pleased with this plant because it has spread out in a pleasing way so that now it is found throughout the border and not just in one small part of it,  as it was previously.   I have found that with self sowers you have to be patient--it often takes a few years for a self sower to take off and to sow in a pleasing pattern.  It has taken these verbascums about 5 years to really get going in the way I envisioned. Like almost all gardening, patience and close observation is the key.  I say close observation, because it is easy to miss the seedlings of self sowers and to weed them up if not careful.
     I like these verbascums in this border for several reasons.  First, their soft yellow flowers are very pleasing, especially when combined with the purple, blues, pinks and oranges which are prevalent in this border at this time of year.  Second, their large broad leaves make a nice contrast to all the other busy foliage in the border.  And finally, their gray furry texture also makes a nice contrast to all the greens in the border.  I have tried many other verbascums over the years and this one, so far, is my favorite.  Some of the others look very weedy, and, indeed, are major weeds.  You see them all over eastern Oregon growing in weedy areas, such as alongside old railroad tracks, for example. Not Verbascum bombyciferum, but other kinds of verbascums!
     Terry Stanley once grew Verbascum epixanthinum, a relatively recently discovered species from Greece which has golden furry foliage, and I grew it in this front border.  I have to say that it had very attractive foliage, and it was perennial, and not biennial, like V. bombyciferum.  The flowers were not quite as attractive as those of bombyciferum, but I would have to say it is another verbascum well worth growing.  Seed seems to be available from Chiltern and from Plant World Seeds. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Front Border Panorama

Panorama of front border at Froggy Bottom showing various yuccas, dasylirions, and Nolina nelsoniis
     It's difficult to get wide shots of my front border because inevitably there is an ugly car or house or chip pile in view, primarily because this border is sandwiched between the road, a circular driveway, and an empty lot that is home to various chip and compost piles. But by judicious cropping and combining 3 images into this pano, I have managed to give a view of most of the border in one shot (at least from one vantage point).  In this image, the yucca looking plants with thick trunks are Nolina nelsoniis.  The yucca with thinner trunk is Yucca rostrata, and the yucca looking creature to the left is Dasylirion wheeleri.
      I have previously posted about Nolina nelsonii here.  This is a plant that I intend to get for my new garden, but have not managed to find any that are large enough yet.  I don't want to start with a tiny one, because it takes so long for them to reach the size shown in the picture (about 20 years).  I had 2 of these bloom a couple of years ago, and although they are not supposed to, they died after blooming.  Bummer!  I think there might have been something going on with them that caused them to bloom and die.  The other ones at Froggy Bottom are doing just fine and, thus far, have not bloomed.
     To see a larger version of this shot, click on the picture.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More Front Border

Dasylirion wheeleri in a sea of California poppies, with Echium amoenum, and Yucca rostrata

Allium globemaster with California poppies, Verbascum bombyciferum and Nolina 'La Sibirica'

More Allim Globemasters with Papaver orientale 'Bolero' amd Nasella  tenuissima
     Today I am posting more pictures of my front border at Froggy Bottom.  This area is coming into its peak season, and it is looking pretty good, if I do say so myself.  As I have explained many times before, I never water this border, and it is completely deer resistant.  This border has evolved over the years to what it is now--when I first started planting here, I planted more traditional border plants.  But, after many of them were devoured by the deer, and after I saw pictures of Beth Chatto's gravel garden, I decided to do a completely drought tolerant deer resistant border here. What you see is the result of many years of experimentation--it did not just happen overnight.
     The principles on which this border are based boil down to using a few evergreen structural plants, a few grasses, a few perennials and bulbs, and then self seeding biennials or annuals fill in for the rest.  Because so many of the plants in this border self sow, it changes a lot from year to year.  That makes it interesting and different each year.
     The evergreen plants which provide structure include the following: Nolina nelsonii, Nolina 'La Sibirica', Dasylirion texanum, Dasylirion wheeleri, Yucca rostrata, Yucca linearifolia, Rhodocoma capensis, and Rhodocoma gigantea.  I have had previous blog posts on almost all of these.
     The bulbs I use in this border include a lot of alliums, eremurus,  bulbous irises, calochortus (I would like to have more of these), eucomis, and colchicums.  I would also like to have more daffodils in the border, and if I were to continue living at Froggy Bottom, I would add a lot of them to provide early spring color.
     The perennials include many thistle-like plants, since the deer don't eat these.  They include Eryngium Big Blue, Eryngium alpinum, Eryngium bourgatii, Eryngium Sapphire Blue, and Eryngium maritimum, Echinops ritro and ruthenicus, and cardoons,  I also include some perennial poppies, including P. orientale cultivers, and P. spicatum. The deer don't seem to like poppies of any sort.  I also have a number of Echiums, including E. amoenum,  and E. russicum, as well as some biennial ones which I shall discuss presently.  I also have started to use more bearded irises and salvias (mainly Salvia transylvanica and nemerosa) in this border.  I also have a couple of different Zauschnerias, which have spread quite a bit over the years.  Finally, I include one Agastache.  If I were to live there longer, I would probably add more salvias and agastaches.  Other perennials include Lobelia tupa and Melianthus major.
     The grasses in the border are limited to three: Nasella tenuissima, Stipa gigantea, and Stipa barbata.  I explained in a previous post why I don't use any others, even though I have grown many others in the past.
     The self sowing annuals and biennials include millions of Papaver somniferum, Papaver californicum, Verbascum bombyciferum, scotch thistle (don't tell the plant police),  Echium vulgare (again, don't tell the plant police),  Echium 'Mr. Happy', and  Limnanthes douglasii. I am also trying to get some sunflowers going in the border as self sowers.  If I were to live here longer, I would try adding more California native annuals and hope to get them to self sow, much as the Limnanthes has done.  These might include Layias and Clarkias.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Dictamnus Albus var. Purpureas Redux

Dictamnus albus var. purpureas blooming in my new garden
     I previously wrote about Dictamnus albus var. purpureas (commonly known as pink burning bush) here.  In that post I talked about the dictamnus I had in my old garden at Froggy Bottom.  These plants in the picture above are at my new garden, but they are the very same plants which I dug up and moved.  As you can see, the move did not bother them at all, even though I dug them up and them left them sitting out of the ground for more than a month before I planted them!  This experience is completely contrary to the oft-repeated maxim that dictamnus do not like to be moved.  I think this is true of a lot of garden lore--much of it has not been scientifically tested, and may not be true. Anyway, this is a great plant, as I wrote previously, and it is a shame that you do not see it more in nurseries.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Front Border Status

Alliums in the front border at Froggy Bottom
     As many of you might know, we are trying to sell our house on Bainbridge Island, and thus far, it seems that gardeners who might appreciate the garden are few and far between.  Indeed, the lack of appreciation for gardening in the general public, and the total misunderstanding of what growing plants do is discouraging.  To wit: the front border in my garden is one of my favorite areas of the garden, principally because I like the wildness of it, and the fact that it is totally deer resistant and drought tolerant is a plus to me.  Yet the nature of a garden like this is that it changes over the course of the year.  It is coming into its prime right now, but in the depths of winter there is not much going on there.  That is, of course, true of many kinds of gardens, including perennial borders or rose gardens.  Despite that fact of nature, it seems that real estate buyers and agents expect a garden which is practically plastic-- i.e., that all the plants look the same all year around.  What is the fun of that?  Anyway, this attitude was illustrated by the recent comments of a real estate agent that this area- the one seen in the picture above- looked like it was just weeds! 
     I will be posting pictures of this area in the next few days with a discussion of what I have going on there.  Meanwhile you can see pictures of this from last year here and here.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ptilotus exaltatus 'Joey'

Ptilotus 'Joey' at Froggy Bottom in Sept. 2013
     I am becoming more and more enamored of annuals, particularly those that will thrive with a minimal amount of water and care.  Last year I found this one, with the unpronounceable name of Ptilotus.  As one expert on the internet said, "Just call it Joey".  This is a plant native to the dry central areas of Australia, so, as you might imagine, it is quite drought tolerant.  I planted it in an area of my garden that gets full sun and is quite well drained, and, as you can see from the picture, it did quite well.  I actually bought 5 plants, so that floral display is not from just one.  It performed as pictured above for quite a long time in the garden.  In the Pacific Northwest it seems to go on until Sept. or October.
     Just today I found more plants of this at Bainbridge Gardens, so I bought 9 of them to plant in my new garden.  I do not know yet whether they are deer resistant, since they were planted in the fenced in portion at Froggy Bottom last year.  These plants I purchased were grown by Skagit Gardens.  An internet search reveals several seed sources for this, so the next step I am going to take is to order seed!  I have not detected any self sown seedlings of this at Froggy Bottom.
     By the way, San Marcos Growers indicates that there is a longer lived cultivar of this called 'Platinum Walllaby'.  A google search of that name reveals that Proven Winners carries it.  Usually Proven Winners plants are widely available, so I will be keeping my eye out for it.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ranunculus Lyallii

Ranunculus lyallii in flower at Froggy Bottom in 2008

Closeup of Ranunculus lyallii leaf

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