Friday, January 29, 2010

the economy claims another victim

A favorite nursery closing? No it’s me, I’ve been laid-off.

It was hardly a surprise; the architecture firm I’ve been working at for the last 5 years has been on a slow downward spiral since the housing market went under and the economy ground to a halt.

I’m in good company, so many capable people have been let go before me. Hundreds have lost their jobs at "my" firm alone. That’s the scary part really; there are so many talented hardworking people out of work right now, it’s easy to be discouraged. But where does that get you, right?

So a positive attitude and resourcefulness are called for, there are opportunities ahead to be discovered and created! With an extensive marketing and retail management background I’m prepared to scare up something. Or spend a lot of time in my garden; thank god the spring months are ahead! Oh wait…there is a metaphor in there somewhere! Spring = new life/new future…
Now if I just wasn’t so worried about the plant budget! I wonder if any of my favorite nurseries will let me work in trade for plants?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More plant shopping, without leaving the house

I am incredibly good at rationalization. I can rationalize practically anything, I’ve never been sure if it’s a talent or a curse. In this case the inspiration for my rationalization is my inability to make it to the NW Flower and Garden Show in Seattle next week. Here’s how it goes…

Gas to Seattle and back home = $40 (ish)
Ticket to the show= $18
Parking = free (having lived there I know the secret spots!)
Lunch = $15
subtotal = $73

See I’m already at $73 and I haven’t included the cost of any plants yet! So … (here comes the rationalization) I can do a little online plant shopping and not feel guilty!

Last year at the NW Flower and Garden Show was where I found my first Echium. It performed all summer long. Its foliage was gorgeous…
The blooms electric…
And it got big, really really BIG!
But since it’s only hardy to zone 9, (20 degrees) it’s dead. I was hoping to acquire another one at the show this year; I’ve never seen them for sale here in Portland. Since that opportunity was out I decided to go looking for them online.I found several companies selling seeds, and while I can certainly appreciate the economy of going that route I wanted instant gratification. That’s when I found Annies Annuals & Perennials. Now I’ll admit the design snob in me was a little put off by the Mary Englebright-esque look of their website, dangerous plants are not supposed to be cute! But once I got to looking through their offerings I was amazed. They have great plants at great prices, and if you’re on the West Coast their delivery charges are very reasonable.

The best feature of their website is something called “wish list” this is a handy feature where you can keep track of all the plants you want to buy. They also allow you to save things that aren’t currently available to your wish list and they notify you when they do become available. Perfect!

So here’s what I bought…two Echium fastuosum “Pride of Madeira”... An Aloe reitzii Whose bumpy spikes coordinated nicely with the punctured air-holes on the box don’t you think? And after seeing all of the amazing Puya on our California vacation I knew I needed at least one. So I went for Puya alpestris “Sapphire Tower” I doubt I will ever see it bloom since it will remain a container plant but just in case I got the one that has the amazing turquoise green metallic blooms. I thought the foliage on my Puya would be silver and it’s not, this plant is obviously green. I hope the sunshine and a little age will bring out its promised silver coloring. And last, but not least, I fell for the Dasylirion longissima “Mexican Grass Tree” after all I really wanted to add to my Dasylirion collection and the price was right at $9.95, but it is going to be a long long time before this… Looks like this…(photo from San Marcos Growers website)
I can whole-heartedly recommend Annies Annuals & Perennials they were a pleasure to deal with, packaged their plants very well and shipped extremely fast. And for all 5 plants and shipping charges I still came in well under $73. Not too shabby!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spring, its coming!

Yes I’m rushing it, but you don’t have to look too hard to see the signs, even in my garden which seems to be a week or two behind others around Portland.

Look at the Hellebores, these buds are about to burst open…
And this one is poking out new growth. That’s one of last season’s toasted leaves on the right.
The Hydrangea is covered in leaf buds…
And a few have already started to open. I need to prune it back before it’s too late. Pruning on crutches, could be dicey.
The Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ just keeps sticking its little fists further and further out of the soil.
Euphorbia cyparissias showing new growth...
And Euphorbia polychroma is also getting with it. I still need to trim back the dead stems from last year!
The leaf buds on my Lilac bush are getting bigger and bigger…
As are the flower buds on the Rhododendron. If the past is any indication they won’t be blooming for another 3 months but they sure look “pregnant with possibility” (I hate that phrase but it just seemed so appropriate)
The Camellia looks to be a little ahead of schedule this year. Could it be the mild January temperatures we’ve been enjoying?
I was surprised to see what looks like new leaf growth (or an alien hand) starting to push out of the 4ft Tetrapanax trunk. It’s going to get a great start on things as long as we don’t have an unfortunate February freeze.
Same for the new little Tetrapanax in the front garden, look at that little purple leaf!
And look at these silly Daylilies! Don’t they know it’s only January 27th!?
And lastly I found this. How exciting! I get to end January having found a bloom in the danger garden! I have no idea what it is, this is an inherited shrub. Soon the whole thing will be covered in tiny white blossoms but for now, I’ll settle for the one.
Spring Fever anyone?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yucca Love

You know that quiet person in the office who gets an incredible amount of work done but never walks around blowing their own horn? They just keep their head down and work? Well in the danger garden those workers are the yuccas. When it comes to an easy care, architectural, evergreen (and spiky!) plant there is nothing better. Agaves and flax require babying during cold temperatures, the yuccas couldn’t care less. Snow piles on the flax leaves and they break, the yucca leaves just laugh it off.
Now before you go thinking “yucca, how boring” there are so many different ones to choose from! Without even realizing it I’ve managed to collect eight distinctly different yuccas. They are as different as Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard' And Sammy, my Yucca Rostrata…Care to join me on a tour of the danger garden yucca collection?

First up are what I think of as the Spokane Yuccas. These came from my mother’s garden and the yard of my brother’s old house, both in Spokane. These are the plain old garden variety yuccas, but they reliably bloom every summer!
All the green plants in our parking strip are Spokane Yuccas, they’re joined by a few Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard’
Are you thinking our parking strip is a little boring? That’s on purpose. There’s a park at the end of our street and during certain times of the year the traffic is nonstop, cars park and little soccer stars spill out with all their gear. The yuccas stand up to trampling and even bite back a bit.

The colors of ‘Color Guard’ are so vivid!
As are the purples of the Yucca a. purpurea, one of my new favorites.
This Yucca aloifolia ‘Spanish Bayonet’ (below) has such striking variegation. Please ignore the leaves that I should have plucked out of the center of the plant before taking the picture.Interestingly the tag on this one also claims it’s a Yucca aloifolia ‘Spanish Bayonet’. I think one of these plants is not who it’s claiming to be! Their coloring and overall form is so different.
On the right under Sammy is a little Yucca linearifolia 'Dusky Blue,’ this picture was taken last spring when it was first planted, right now you can hardly see it due to the grass planted in front growing up and hiding it. I will be moving it to a better location this spring.
In addition to Sammy there’s another Yucca Rostra in the danger garden, but this one is much smaller. That’s it on the right; on the left is Agave striata.
Below is my only Yucca recurvifolia or Soft Leaf Yucca. I need a couple more of this one.And the variegated form, although it’s not looking very variegated at the moment.
The same is true for this one. This is one of my oldest yuccas. When I bought it something like 8 years ago it was striped with yellow. The tag is long gone so I can’t know exactly what it was, and as it has multiplied the new plants are tending toward solid green. I suppose I should have been more diligent about removing the green lest it take over?
Here’s a close up. You can see a little variegation is still present.
And because it’s my blog I’m going to include the Hesperaloes in my Yucca love, after all they are sometimes referred to as False Yucca, or Red Yucca. This is a two year old (to me) Hesperaloe parviflora in the ground…it was flowering when I planted it but not since.And one in a pot, this plant has been with me about 4 years and has at least doubled in size, if not tripled. It bloomed for the second time last summer and the blooms lasted for months!I collected a few seeds which I hope to start this spring. I also let a couple of the pods fall to the ground and break open. I am curious to see if they were carried away by insects and if I’ll have any volunteers sprouting up when the weather warms. This Hesperaloe parviflora 'Yellow' (below, please try to pardon all the leaf clutter in these pictures, this one especially, I hope to get outside and clean up someday soon!) was purchased last spring from High Country Gardens. I’ve only seen the red variety bloom; hopefully someday I’ll see the yellow flowers.So there you have it, the danger garden yucca collection. I’ve vowed to add to it this year. I desperately need more hardworking, no complaining type plants.