Friday, February 26, 2010


The unthinkable happened last weekend. I went over to a friend’s house and before I knew it we were in her car and we were on our way to Sauvie Island…the home of Cistus Nursery. It would not be inaccurate to say that I was kidnapped and taken there against my will. Once there I was exposed to hundreds of beautiful plants, and (it gets worse) I was forced to buy a few of them! Can you believe it?I know what you’re thinking. But she is recently unemployed! What sort of friend would take her to the land of temptation? Obviously one who knew what I really needed.

I have no idea what the fabulous bloom at the top is. I love it but couldn’t find the name. And of course as soon as I turned around I was distracted by something else fabulous and forgot to ask. Something else like this yucca, my yucca lust continues! But as fabulous as this Yucca faxoniana is at $28 it stayed put.
There was more fabulousness….check out the bloom on this Banksia integrifolia…
And the seed pod isn’t too shabby either.
Funny a couple of weeks ago I was completely oblivious to the charms of the Grevillea and now I am seeing them everywhere and falling in love. Look at this bushy little Grevillea 'Canberra Gem,’ luckily before I fell head over heels I read the tag and noted the size…4 to 6 ft! It stayed behind.
My will power was shot when I laid eyes on the marvelous Echiums. I am still mourning the quick demise of mine. One day it looked fabulous and the next day horrible. This replacement is perfect. (I was so overwhelmed on the spot that I neglected to take a picture of the display…so this shot was taken in my backyard upon arriving home).
Another plant I was powerless when faced with, Leucadendron. This one a Leucadendron salignum 'Golden Tip' of course it is only marginally hardy here and I’ll have to protect it when we get cold next winter but how could I resist these amazing blooms?
And the red stems?
Exactly, I could not. This is about this time that I start rationalizing that with 2 harsh record setting winters in a row this next one will be a cake walk. Right? It has to be!

This Agave toumeyana screamed out to me, it needed a home and was a bargain at $9. Plus the one I bought at Garden Fever in January had died before I even got to plant it, I needed a replacement! (btw the folks at Garden Fever were totally willing to exchange it and now I have a fabulous Prickly Pear to add to my dangerous plant collection!)
I include this next series of photos to make everyone here in the PNW who lost an agave last winter feel better about it. If the Cistus display gardens can loose agaves then none of us are immune to the powers of nature.
One last purchase that I have to share. Yucca carnerosana. Just look at those fabulous white threads!
Aren’t they wonderful?
In case you lost count, the total times I used the word fabulous in this post: 7, Cistus just does that to me.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My basement “greenhouse”

I don’t have a real greenhouse so I bring my tender agaves, aloes, succulents and such inside for the cold wet winter. They live in the basement under grow lights. It stays fairly cool and I rarely water, they aren’t thriving but they are getting by until they can return to the warm sun in the late spring. The larger pots and the hardier plants stay outside under the shade pavilion; the indoor treatment is only for the small pots, truly tender plants, and a pot or two that may not be frost proof.
I usually check them weekly for signs of problems (bugs, dead leaves, etc) but this winter they went for a couple of months with very little care. Getting downstairs with a broken ankle was a rare occurrence, so I was a little concerned about what I would find when I finally tackled the job looking over each individual plant. As you can see, this is no quick affair; it took the better part of an afternoon.

The Aeonium Schwarzkopf is holding up nicely. It’s lost a lot of leaves (I almost called them petals because it’s so tempting to think of these as flowers) but still looks healthy.
This is the first winter that I’ve left an Umbrella Palm outside (planted in a stock tank planter), hopefully it will return. Just in case I brought this one inside, it’s my insurance plant. Some of the older shoots are turning yellow and I should cut them off but it’s still sending up new green ones too.
Luckily there was only one sign of an infestation. On the Sedum around this purple Echeveria…I sprayed it with Neem Oil but I think it was too late and the Sedum needs to go. The Echeveria is fine (except for a little unfortunate overspray that dotted the leaves).
What I did find was a lot of babies! These plants have been busy producing pups! Aloe pups…
Agave pups…
The pups around my Agave desmettiana were out of control! So I decided to separate them. These guys grow so close to the mother plant that you have to work really hard to get roots along with the pup.The smaller the pup, the easier it is to get roots. I would have thought the reverse would be true.Not a bad litter once they are all potted up!And the momma plant looks happier without all the pups crowding around her too…
This Agave chrysantha has been very prolific.
All of these pups came from that plant. There were only 3 small pups in each black planter when I first planted them. Obviously they’ve been busy too.
I really need to pull these and divide them before the start damaging each other, but that is a job for another day.
This Agave (unknown name from a gifted plant) gives real meaning to the word “spiky”, no wonder agave spikes were once used as sewing needles.
Before the cold weather hit I dug up these Datura seedlings (volunteers from a plant the year before). They still look good, hopefully I can successfully transition them back outside once the weather is reliably warm. There are a few “ifs” in our forecast for the coming week, talk of an Alaskan chill making an appearance. I hope it’s just talk.
So what’s your method of overwintering tender potted plants? Do you take over an unused bedroom or have you made the jump to an actual greenhouse?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Giant Lobelia

I’ve discovered another plant to lust after…the Giant Lobelia, Tree Lobelia or Lobelia deckenii. Since this plant grows in the mountains of East Africa (according to a couple of websites specifically in the high altitudes of Uganda) I doubt that I will ever actually see it in person, but a girl can dream.The top picture comes from Wikipedia and someone selling seeds on Africa's Largest Online Marketplace. They say “Lobelia deckenii ssp bequaertii is an afro-alpine species from Uganda. This amazing, hardy perennial grows to 5m when in flower.”

The rest of the images are borrowed from Kirgistan's photostream on Flicker. Looks like he recently took a trip to Uganda.

Do you still want to see more photos of this amazing plant? (I know I did). Then check out the results of a Google image search.
I wish I would have discovered this plant before I went to listen to Burl Mostul of Rare Plant Research talk about his travels through South Africa. I wonder if he saw the Giant Lobelia? I wonder if he collected seeds from it? I wonder if tiny little seedlings of this very plant are currently growing in the Rare Plant Research greenhouses here in Oregon right this very minute?!! Like I said, a girl can dream...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

two more agave observations

I’ve previously shared a couple fake agaves I’ve ran across. First a pair I spied on the ANLD tour last summer and then the damaged ones I discovered at Pier One. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked when I see them anymore; there obviously is a market for fake succulents. In fact when Megan of Nestmaker recently posted about a fake succulent garden I actually confessed to liking it. And I wasn’t lying.I guess what really surprised me about the one I saw last weekend at Z Gallerie was the price, $179.95, why would anyone pay that for a fake plant? Yes I know it will live forever and the people who buy these things probably aren’t really gardeners but geez! This one even had the stubs from the imaginary removed leaves around the base (that’s fake soil, a solid mass of something)And the pressed patterns that the unfolding leaves make on each other. Of course they also have plastic injection mold holes too (no I don’t know that is what they really are called, I am just guessing).
…moving on….

I got into my car this morning and realized yesterday when I claimed I would never cut agaves leaves to put in a vase I forgot about this one. Now granted the leaves aren’t cut, this little agave pup is planted (with actual soil) in the bud vase of my VW Beetle (yes it’s true, the new Bugs do come with a bud vase).
The beauty of this arrangement is in the summertime when cut flowers would wilt from the sun and heat this little agave will be loving life! But I did have to bring him into the house on our really cold nights this winter. I suppose it’s the true sign of an agave fanatic when you even have one planted in your car huh?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Agave leaves in a vase

I am always on the hunt for something suitable to bring indoors and put in a vase. Nothing is off limits. Or so I thought, I may have found the one thing I will not cut for a vase.

Last week Paradis Express did a post sharing photos from Garden Design magazine, and included the picture below. The green wall caught my eye and then I noticed that someone had chopped off a couple of agave leaves and put them in the stacked vase. Interesting.
I don't think I've seen this before, and it was a little shocking! But I suppose if you were trimming back an agave that was infringing on a pathway that would be a great use of the leaves.

Then last weekend I was thumbing through Living etc magazine...
And here it was again! Agave leaves in a vase!
Have agaves become such the "it" plant that they are even saturating the cut flower industry? Have you seen agave leaves used in this manner?

Friday, February 19, 2010

The calendar says winter, the heart says spring!

Portland has been enjoying a week of sunny warm days; yesterday’s high was 60 heavenly degrees. Even though I know spring doesn’t technically start for another 29 days I can’t help but begin to enjoy some of the rites of spring.

For instance unwrapping the bananas (Musa basjoo). Last year this task was done on March 22nd, this year with our warm temperatures I feared they were starting to grow (if they were still solid and alive) inside their wrappings. So off they came! Some of the smaller ones around the garden had frozen and turned to mush, so I cut them back to the ground and no doubt by summer they will have quickly regained their previous height.

Luckily my tallest specimen retained its pseudo stem and I’ll get to start the season with some banana height in the garden, in fact it is already pushing out a leaf!
Not so lucky with the half a dozen ‘pups’ around the mama plant. They all turned to mush…
But with a little time, warmth, and water they all should grow back and make a nice little banana jungle clump.

Another rite of spring? Planting peas! This year I remembered to soak them overnight like my Grandpa always did.And then I planted them in the warming soil of my driveway stock tanks. The crazy bamboo poles will have twine tied across to act as support once the peas start growing. There is nothing better than a fresh pea pod plucked from the vine! Well, except maybe a fresh warm tomato, or a basil leaf …but those will have to wait a while longer.I also snipped a few Euphorbia myrsinites stems to enjoy inside. These plants sometimes end up a little leggy in the garden but a few quick snips and they make a lovely cut “flower” to enjoy inside for weeks!I do feel a little guilty getting all spring giddy when I know there are parts of the county where spring is still a long way off. Right now is one of those times when I feel really lucky to live, and garden, in Portland.