Friday, April 8, 2011

Where are they now? Revisiting my past HPSO Plant Sale purchases…

Since this weekend (April 9 & 10) is the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon’s Spring Plant Sale I thought it might be interesting to revisit my past purchases and see how they’re doing. For purposes of this review I’m sticking to the years after I started the blog, my memory is a little fuzzy on what I may have purchased pre-Spring 2009, before there is a photo record to assist. So first up…the Spring 2009 sale. This picture documents my haul, clockwise from upper left: Beschorneria albiflora - agave relative from Mexico…since this one is only borderline hardy here it’s lived in a container since day one. It froze solid in the unheated garage when the temperature outside was at 13 degrees in Dec 2009. And yet it lives on. Proof that keeping things dry definitely helps their hardiness. Bee Balm (Monarda Jacob Cline) – planted in the ground, flowered beautifully that summer…and never to be heard from again. DEAD.

Ensete Maurelii (red banana) – bought as an annual and put in a container. No attempt to over-winter it that year. DEAD.

Euphorbia martini – in the ground and performing like a champ! I can’t wait for this year’s flowers. Eremurus (Fox-tail Lily) – planted in the ground, however as detailed in this post it comes up every year but has never bloomed. Maybe this is the year? Kniphofia ‘flamenco’ – planted in the ground, I’m sure of it. Where is it? Which one is it? I haven’t a clue. Kniphoifa rarely die on me…I’m calling this one MISSING IN ACTION. Eryngium agavifolium – you can never have too many Eryngium! This one is in the ground and multiplying. Datura – bought as an annual I think I got one flower from this one before a hard frost killed it. DEAD.

Tetrapanax papyrifer – yay for the Tetrapanax! This was my second and it’s been performing wonderfully. Still waiting for the leaves to appear this year. Echium russicum (x2) – my second flirt with Echium and I was unaware that these can act as Biennials. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your outlook) they bloomed and died that summer, without reseeding. DEAD.

Next sale…Fall 2009…I never am as excited to shop when winter is just around the corner. Another Tetrapanax! I know, I was on a roll. This one went in the front garden and is hopefully still alive. I’m a bit worried about it because the tops of the trunks feel a little soft. Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ – I had seen this plant at the Farwest Show New Varieties Showcase in August and fell in love. I remember being very happy to see it available for purchase so soon. It’s been moved a couple of times but is still alive. There maybe one more move in its future though as it's possibly being transplanted to the front garden as soon as I get around to it. A slight deviation from the topic, while taking the photo of E. ‘Ascot Rainbow’ I noticed my Dracunculus vulgaris (Dragon Lily) is coming up! Such a cool looking plant, in all of its odd stages. Eryngium venustum – alive and well! Himalayan Maidenhair Fern (x2) – not looking real fabulous at the moment, but certainly alive. On to the next sale...Spring 2010 – the year that my take away quote was “if you make me drop my plants I’ll kick your fat ass” plant shopping at its violent best! Melianthus major – completely unexpectedly alive, I thought for sure this one was destined to be a one season wonder. Big smile. Glaucium flavum – alive and happy. I even got a few blooms last summer. Aloe striatula – this one was in the ground, but when I found this fabulous metal planter (on sale cheap at West Elm last fall), I went ahead and dug it to winter-over inside. I think I’ll be putting it back in the ground for good this spring. Yucca 'bright star' – alive, but with a serious case of the chicken pox. That’s why there are so few leaves, I cut them all off. I have confidence it will be fine once (if) the weather warms up and it stops raining every day (you can also see my slug proofing technique at work in the back ground). Rubus lineatus – I’m so glad I bought this one! It grew and grew and looked super all summer. The new leaves coming on strong already this spring. Echium russicum seedlings (x2) – Well I’m either really happy, or really clueless, maybe you can tell me which it should be. One of these died last summer. The other lived on, not really growing much (I think they were both in too much shade) but I forgot about it until I was weeding the other day. My fingers grasped this little thing and I pulled but it didn’t budge. Odd with how wet our soil is. I looked at it again and I wondered…could it be? So here’s what’s growing in the garden now. And here’s a picture of the seedlings from last spring when I bought them. So what do you think? It it an Echium…or a weed? Eucomis ‘Tugela Ruby’ – this poor little guy got stuck in a stupid spot and then moved late in the season. So far it’s a no show but it is a little early in the spring for the Eucomis to be up. The jury is out on this one. And lastly, Fall 2010. No group shot this year, instead individual portraits. First up, Acacia pravissima (Oven's Wattle). I bought this small plant as a test of winter hardiness and put it in the ground. Here it is the day I bought it. And now. Look close, it's hard to see but it's there, and appears to be alive. It received zero protection over the winter. Eryngium proteiflorum and Dyckia ‘Burgandy Ice’ the Eryngium went in a container and the Dyckia went in the ground. Here is the Eryngium now. It’s not looking real good is it? Actually the best it ever looked was the day I bought it, the downhill slide started almost immediately. Maybe it doesn’t like container life? It’s going in the front garden soon. The Dyckia - well it kept on looking good right up until that late February freeze (18 degree low). DEAD.

Phlebodium pseudoaureum (Blue Fern) – I knew it wasn’t a good sign that I kept seeing these in the houseplant section of local nurseries. The leaves turned brown after our first hard frost and there have been no signs of it returning, yet. I’m afraid it’s DEAD.

So there you have it. The good, the bad, and the dead. No I am not counting up the living vs. dead total. I thought about it, but realized that I really don’t care. I am just excited to see what I find at this year’s sale!


  1. Not so bad for two of the three worst winters we've had in Portland garden memory. I'm impressed at your willingness to try certain plants in the ground without any assurances that they'll make it.

    And I think that little weedling is indeed your echium russicum: doesn't it look just a little too hairy for your average Portland weed?

  2. You have made some daring choices. Thanks for sharing the success/failure stories. I would use them as a guide, but seem to lose different things, like my Glaucium flavum, which is nowhere to be found.

  3. That's a cool post. And interesting. I may have to imitate it (in a sincerely flattering way)! Of course It'd mean admitting a lot of failures. Oh well, I guess I could do that.

    You do have some very excellent plants.

  4. Love this post. What a great way for you and your readers to get insights into your plant purchases. (Were I so organized, I'd shamelessly copy your approach!)

    I've been worried about my Tetrapanax papyrifera 'Steroidal Giant.' I just love this plant and take great joy in showing my garden guests the huge leaves. My plant was about 4 years old and stood about 7 ft tall. Last November's sudden cold really took its toll. As of early April, I see no signs of life. I was lucky enough to have kept one of the many suckers in my greenhouse.

  5. Can't wait to see this years picks. I'm going tomorrow!

  6. As for the Monarda: grow...oh crap I can't remember it now, that purple variety... All other monardas have died for me, but the purple one 'Raspberry Wine' something or other just thrives. The reds, the pinks, the lavenders...all toast.

    Your Echium looks like it is the same plant as the one you bought. I have that one and it seems to have overwintered fine. {Not so last year.}

    If I counted and compared dead to live plants I'd be depressed big time. Best not to go there. :)

  7. MulchMaid, "impressed at your willingness" is such a nice way of putting it! Thank you Jane,

    ricki, actually I lost a Glaucium flavum too! It was the second one I purchased later in the season. Just disappeared.

    ChrisU, thank you. I read on another blog that you just got a shipment from Cistus, you must have some very cool plants too!

    Van, I heard from another Portland gardener who lost her mature Tetrapanx winter before last. It's been so cold yet this spring I still have hope.

    Patricia, and I can't wait to hear about what you and Megan pick up!

    Grace, thanks for the Monarda tip, and the opinion on the Echium. Since you and Jane both agree it's got to be true!

  8. Hi, came across your blog while looking for images to illustrate an article I'm writing on Eryngium agavifolium for my own website (www., which is is development). I wonder whether I could have permission to use your photograph, in exchange for full credit to you as the photographer and a link to your blog? Cheers, Tom


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