Monday, February 28, 2011

NWFG Show, initial thoughts.

Does it make something all the sweeter when you come close to not getting it? All last week my plans flip-flopped along with the weather forecast. One moment I was going to the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle and the next I was staying home. I went. This is partway into my trip…after the conditions were safe enough to consider it pretty. A jack-knifed semi truck and four cars spun out in the ditch earlier had me a wondering if I was going to make it. The very first thing to hit me upon entering the show was this: No, not the overuse of primary colors, but rather the overpowering scent of Hyacinths. One of the best smells of spring! The air was thick with it, I wish our Yard, Garden & Patio Show in Portland would take this idea and run with it….out with eau de beauty bark and in with the smell of spring!

In addition to the hundreds of vendors at the NWFG Show the main attraction is usually the amazing display gardens. The theme this year was “Once Upon a Time” (think fairy tales) which had me pretty underwhelmed with the possibilities. I was wrong! So many creative gardens to be inspired by. I’ll share more overall pictures of the gardens tomorrow (buying myself a little time to edit down the hundreds of pictures I took) but today I wanted to highlight the plant that kept turning up in garden after garden: The tree fern! It was truly the year of the tree fern, they were everywhere. Since I was unable to attend the show last year I’m not sure if this is a continuation of a trend or not but it was very interesting to see. As I’ve admitted I do enjoy listening to what others are saying as they take in a show like this. I heard many people exclaim “I’ve never seen a fern that big!” or “Wouldn’t a row of these look nice along the back fence?” (etc) I just hope before they run out and buy someone tells them that they are not reliably hardy in the Pacific Northwest. This Norfolk Island Tree Fern (Cyathea brownii) really stood out to me as something special. Maybe because it’s the first time I’ve seen one. Gorgeous! (and also not reliably hardy here). The other “everywhere” plant? My beloved Schefflera taiwaniana. Everywhere that is except for the booths actually selling plants! Yikes…or maybe I was too late? The show did open on Wednesday and I wasn’t there until Friday! Isn’t the new growth fabulous? I completely expected to see several of these at the Portland Show the week before…I guess now I know why I did not, they were all in Seattle!

Isn't this a great combo? A Schefflera with a Loquat. Tomorrow pictures of the display gardens and vendors that caught my eye…it really was a magnificent show…well worth the dicey drive.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Hermitage

(part of our November trip to Nashville, Tennessee)

The last place we visited in Nashville before catching our flight was The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s home. Had we been allowed to photograph inside the home I would have shared multiple pictures of the fabulous wallpaper in the main hallway, it was gorgeous. As I remember (this is 3 months ago with no photos to aid my memory) the pattern included drawings of lush palms and bananas and the colors were remarkable. I thought a simple online search would turn up at least one image but I found nothing. So…on that unfortunate note we head outside to the garden! This washtub off the back of the main house would make a wonderful pond planter don’t you think? The garden entrance… Frost damaged Tuberose… The garden, note the large Cardoon in the center. Beautiful Crape myrtle… Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens. This little fellow was enjoying the sun on a Cardoon leaf. These large brown leaves caught my eye; there was something very familiar about them. I realized they were similar to the leaves from our Magnolia macrophylla. This is what they were from. The family cemetery next to the garden. I have mixed emotions about what it would be like to have this feature as a part of your garden. It certainly would make moving more difficult, but I really like the conection it would allow. I felt the closest to my grandfather after he died when I had the opportunity to garden in the soil he had worked for years.

Expired flowers and seeds. This one is a mystery to me, one I would love to solve. The “flowers” (?) look like giant Euphoria bracts. Does anyone know what it is? This atractive grass was growing in the parking lot… And that’s it...we jumped in the car and took off for the airport, the end of our Nashville adventure!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A visit to Bates Garden Center...“Beautifying Nashville since 1932”

(part of our November trip to Nashville, Tennessee) My in-laws were kind enough to plan a nursery stop as part of the agenda for our visit. I was beyond thrilled! What a great opportunity to get a glimpse at the local gardening scene via one of the most established nurseries in the area! From their website: “In 1932, at the height of the great depression, Bessie Bates embarked on a most visionary and, at the time, seemingly dubious quest. She convinced a skeptical Byron Bates that they should mortgage their house for $200.00 in order to buy cinder block, lumber and glass to build a "hot house" to grow plants in. The Fall of '32 looked grim. Byron was still convinced they would lose everything they owned. "At least we had a home once", he was heard to say. But Bessie persisted. Bessie Bates was so persistent with her love of growing plants and the love of people, that the five year mortgage was paid off after the first spring season in 1933. Byron Bates was then heard to exclaim, "Look what we have done!"” Don’t you just love that story?

Of course we weren’t visiting during the height of the growing season. In fact they were winding things down during our visit. I must admit seeing these toasted (frostbitten) agaves near the front entrance had me wondering what I was in for. Luckily things looked up after that. Chasmanthium latifolium Amsonia 'Blue Ice' They had a great selection of Mahonia, this one Mahonia x 'Winter Sun. They were all referred to as Oregon Grape Holly. All of a sudden I felt my home state pride swelling (dumb but true). Mahonia 'Soft Caress' (Mahonia eurybracteata)…at the point that I saw this one in November I was still lusting after this plant, I ended up purchasing one in December. Cephalotaxus prostrate, or Japanese Plum Yew. Pretty. My people! Look at those fabulous mature Yucca! And the grasses… These empty greenhouses alluded to the amazing variety of plants that must be available here in the growing season. Prunus persica, Patio Peach, I had no idea Peach trees were so gorgeous! Bates Nursery was heavily marketing Monrovia. The only nursery at home that I’ve seen this level of Monrovia branding at is Shorty’s in Vancouver, WA. They also had an interesting marketing program that I’d never seen before, that is teaming with the local lifestyle magazine Southern Living and their plant collection: Inside the nursery building was where I finally located their healthy agaves. Here we have a fine looking Kissho Kan (gallon size) for $19.99. The smaller agaves were all only $5.99. Of course this is where I started to rationalize what I could send home, fit in my luggage, etc… I ended up buying none of them and have regretted it ever since. My main regret is this one; I believe it may be either Agave titanota or Agave Felipe Otero. It was unlabeled, and those are my best guesses. For $5.99 I should have tried to get it home. These agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ were labeled as “sp annual” and only $9.99!!! Those were gallon sized pots! Oh how I wanted them all. And of course this beautiful specimen Dasylirion longissimum, was AMAZING and at only $208.99 I wasn’t the slightest bit tempted. So, that was my visit to a historic Nashville nursery, someday I hope to go back in season, I imagine this is one hustle and bustle filled place!