Friday, July 31, 2009


Yesterday I declared I was on strike until the heat lifted, well things are getting better. The oppressive heat is actually dissipating and it looks like we are coming out the other side of this thing. So instead of striking today I’m taking a little virtual vacation, to Hawaii. Sometimes I feel like I am the only person who hasn’t been to Hawaii…everyone I know has been and comes back with reports of spectacular foliage, amazing flowers and towering palms. My friend Andrea was there earlier this month and took some fabulous pictures - enjoy!
Anyone have a clue what this little creepy crawly is? Was it once alive?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our year of living dangerously

Is this what the “climate change” thing is all about? It has been a year of weather extremes in Portland. Last December we experienced record setting cold, snow and ice, for days on end. Currently we are in the midst of record setting heat. Miserable heat. Monday was 103, Tuesday and Wednesday both topped out at 106, and today is heading to 102. I know many other places regularly get much warmer, and stay warmer for longer, but here in Portland we just don’t, and because we don’t it is rare to have air conditioning at home. Thank god for my office job!

I plead guilty to being a little weather obsessed. One of my favorite gadgets is this thermometer.Besides telling you the current temperature inside and outside it also records the high and low for the day out in my garden. The best part is the display screen sets on the kitchen counter so I don’t even have to go outside to see the current temperature or the extreme for the day! The bad part is that’s been going on the fritz when the temperature exceeds 100, just like me.

Who wants to think about gardening when it’s this hot? Cocktails in a nice air conditioned restaurant, that’s what I’m talking about. Just look at that ice cube! Burrrr….
Gardening talk to resume again as soon as the temperature stays below 100, until then I’m on strike.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

didn’t think it could happen…

I am fascinated by agave blooms and also a little disturbed by them. They are striking and beautiful. But since agaves are monocarpic they bloom once and die, and who wants a big beautiful agave to die? Not me. Of course there are usually pups left behind so the mother plant does sort of live on through the babies.

Since most of my agave collection is potted (rather than planted in the ground), I didn’t think I’d ever experience an agave bloom spike, like the Germinatrix recently did. I figured I was forever stunting them and the plants wouldn't be able to achieve that level of "maturity."

I have been proven wrong by somone named Mike...
I found these images on the Northwest Palms Discussion Board. A fellow by the name of Mike has an Agave Parryi that is blooming, and it’s in a pot. Mike doesn’t give any information about where he lives but most of the people who post on this board are in the Pacific Northwest. Very interesting…it could happen here! It could happen to me!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I haven’t kept my Caladium lust a secret. Back in mid-May I planted bulbs…and they did nothing. So when I saw plants at a great price I bought a couple figuring that I’d toss the bulbs and use the pots for something else. Then I discovered the bulbs were starting to root, so I didn’t toss them out but rather planted them in the ground, around the garden, and promptly forgot about them.
It seems the temperatures this last couple of weeks have kicked a little life into those bulbs and now I’ve got 6 little plants coming up. The coloring is spectacular! What a pleasant summer surprise. Another exciting development…my Colocasia Gigantea is already developing a second plant, how thrilling! I’ve planted it in a pot until we get the stock-tank-pond thing going, its future home is somewhere near the pond, I never expected that it would spread so fast!
Well the joke is on me because it isn’t, it’s another Caladium bulb! How the heck…I swear I didn’t put that bulb in there!!! I think someone is playing tricks on me!

Monday, July 27, 2009

This could cause an accident

Having just picked up our take-out Thai for dinner I was headed home, ready to relax on the patio after a long day at work, when I saw it. WAIT! What is that? Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a huge white flower. Instinct was to slam on the brakes to get a better look. Luckily the sensible driver in me (who knew I had one!!!?) continued on and went back around the block.
Wow. I don’t know enough to tell if it is a Brugmansia or Datura, but I believe that Brugmansia flowers usually point down where as Datura tend to point upward? (please correct me if I am wrong!)
The flowers were huge! (yep that’s my hand for scale)
The new blossoms about to unfold had a great tobacco stained coloring.
The odd thing was there were several plants scattered along the sidewalk. The sort of planting you usually see when a plant self-sows. I was so fascinated with the possibility that this plant might have actually made it through a Portland winter, to multiply on its own, that I went and knocked on the door (yikes!) I needed to know more. Unfortunately nobody was home, or maybe they could see the excitement in my eyes and were too afraid of me to answer the door! No worries, I will be back…this is too good to not know more about it!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mama Aloe

I acquired this Aloe at the Berry Botanical Gardens plant sale two years ago. Sadly she didn’t have a tag and the folks selling her had no idea what she was. However she was beautiful and about to burst into bloom, I couldn’t resist.

Then she bloomed! Wow…and it lasted for weeks (picture from 5/2007).
She hasn’t bloomed since then but she has been productive VERY productive. I’ve separated and potted up 10 babies, the biggest (shown on the left, below) is approaching the same size as the mother plant (on the right...that strange orange stripe is one of the uprights on our shade pavilion!). She is working on another 3 babies right now.
I recently moved her to a shadier spot, I thought all Aloes loved the sun, but she was turning brown and her leaves were pointing down toward the ground. She has quickly recovered turning back to a healthy green and the leaves are starting to turn upwards again. One of the pups is still in the sun and showing a little brown (are they pups when they’re from an aloe not an agave?).
Do any of you Aloe-knowledgeable folks have a guess what type she might be?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Battle of the big leaves

My favorite new plant (non-agave) in the garden this summer has got to be the Tetrapanax. I could not be happier with its big leaves and general all around good looks. I planted it in our large, round, stock tank late last fall, it was tiny. Enter winter with all its nastiness and yet there were still two leaves remaining when spring arrived! I thought this plant wasn’t evergreen here in Zone 8 and that it might just die back to the ground, so I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s only gotten better since then! Coincidentally planted in the smaller round stock tank next to the Tetrapanax is the Gunnera. It is breaking new ground with its size this year, far surpassing previous years, when it was in a much smaller container. It is really enjoying the bog-like conditions of a wet stock tank with lots of room to stretch. Last summer the Gunnera was our star, our amazing BIG leaf plant! I still love the Gunnera, but my husband, on the other hand, has dismissed it as an under performer since the new kid on the block (the Tetrapanax) has shown up. We decided to measure.

Well….the largest leaf on the T. is over 36” wide (that’s the 36” mark Andrew is holding the tape at). On the G. it’s 33” so…I guess the Tetrapanax could be seen as the winner. However the Tetrapanax only has 10 leaves to the Gunnera’s 16. I’ll call that a tie.
Since they still have about two months before the growing season ends I can’t wait to see what happens! If you don’t have at least one of each what are you waiting for!?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chillin on a 92 degree day

I am a firm believer in not working on your birthday. Everyone deserves to spend the day relaxing and doing whatever you want to do. Somehow I managed to stretch this year’s birthday into a 2½ week event, starting with plant shopping at Cistus July 7th and wrapping up Monday, my actual birthday. I enjoyed the day relaxing on the patio and in the garden, with a little shopping thrown in, just because I could.

The Manfreda maculosa from the Cistus trip started blooming Monday, so that was an extra birthday surprise! That’s it above and below. It smells like a tuberose, wonderful! The blooms open white/green and then changes to a pink tone. After looking at the picture of the gorgeous Cotinus in my post on the Sunday Parkways event, I decided it was time to purchase one of these plants; I have been coveting several at Garden Fever. So I schemed a bit and formulated a plan that emptied a large sturdy pot, it would be perfectly happy there for awhile, until I came up with a better place for it. Off to Garden Fever…

Naturally since I was ready to buy, they didn’t have a single Cotinus left. What to do? I've got an empty pot at home just begging for a plant!

I’ve been drawn to the Chocolate Albizia since I first saw them, and they have several fine specimens, but at $79 I managed to walk away (but I can still hear it calling out to me…).

Nest maker’s post that morning on her Sambucus was fresh in my mind and Garden Fever had a beautiful Black Lace Elderberry Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’ for under $25. Uhm….that will do nicely!

I love the black against the chartreuse foliage of the Northern Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium, and the bright green of the Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa.
While I was there I also picked up a pot for my Datura (from the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon sale last spring). Planted where it was it had become lost, buried by its big leaf neighbors. I needed to pull it out and give it a chance to thrive; before it’s too late (I grow it as an annual here in Portland).
The Leptinella squalida 'Platt's Black' makes a nice base for the green plant in the green pot, something to tie-in the spots on the pot and break up the sea of green.
Ok – shopping and planting done, time to pour a glass of wine and get back to the chillin on the patio with my plant friends!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

the apartment plant

I have a friend who calls the Fatsia japonica the Apartment Plant. She hates them, equating their use to boring uncared for plantings near similarly described apartment buildings. I don’t agree! I see their big glossy palmate leaves and think they are almost (dare I say) tropical looking. Maybe it’s the old “familiarity breeds contempt” reaction? She’s grown up in Portland and seen them all her life, whereas I moved here from a cooler climate and fell in love with them. I planted this one the fist summer in our home; it has now been in the ground 4 years. The picture below was taken shortly after planting…and yes that is bark mulch. I needed to put down something and since the previous owner had just spread fresh bark mulch I matched it, knowing that we would be laying down gravel the following year.
I believe I paid $7.99 for a 1-gallon size pot and I remember the tag saying something about it resembling a papaya tree if the bottom leaves were trimmed. What’s not to love about that! Sounds tropical! I had no idea then what a papaya tree looks like but after a little time in the internet I was excited at the idea. The photo below is a picture of a Papaya tree in Panama (from - photo by Urs Hauenstein). I didn’t trim up the bottom leaves for any other reason than they started to look ragged, but I love the Papaya-ish look. I now know that this plant needs a bit of shade to thrive, but the tag said sun, so that is what I gave it. Others that I see around town in the shade look shrubbier, with their bottom leaves in place. Another thing to love about this plant is the unique white spherical flowers it gets in late summer/early fall followed by the most amazing black seeds which the birds love. I’ll share pictures of the blooms when they happen. I love my apartment plant!