Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sophora prostrata 'Little Baby’ is my favorite plant in the garden this week…

It takes a pretty cool plant to overcome a silly name like Sophora prostrata 'Little Baby’ but I think this one manages.

My plant crushes seem to fall into a few distinct groups. There are the marginally hardy exotics, the spiky ones, the big leaves, and the little (barely can be seen) leaves on tiny wiry plants. That last group is where this sophora belongs (Muehlenbeckia astonii and Pittosporum divaricatum being two other examples). Plus I’ve never met a Sophora I didn’t love…

Because this one is so easy to overlook its best situated where your eyes naturally land on it.

One of my plants bloomed last year, but I can’t seem to find a photo of the flower. Luckily it looks like I’ll be enjoying another couple this year…

My first plant came from Cistus, the second was purchased at the 2012 Portland Chinese Garden Plant Sale, but I can’t remember from which nursery! Here’s the Cistus description: “A smallish shrub from New Zealand with narrow wiry stems growing in a zigzag fashion, bearing pretty leaves with tiny leaflets. Golden orange pea flowers are produced late in the season. Best in full sun, lean soil and not much fertilizer. Most we've seen reach 4 ft or so in a Rastafarian tangle. Frost hardy in USDA zone 8, possibly into zone 7.”

And the general stats:
  • Shrub hardy in zones 8 – 11
  • Eventually 4-5 ft tall
  • Likes full sun with poor, well drained soil
  • Yellow/orange flowers in late spring
  • Evergreen (if you look close)…

Why do I love this plant? Because of the yellow gold stems and the geometric shapes they naturally form, the bright green leaves are like small ornaments on those stems.

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Monday, April 29, 2013

So what did she do about that embarrassing Dusty Miller infatuation?

I know a few of you have probably been losing sleep, wondering if I’ve come to my senses and ditched the Dusty Miller (I confessed awhile ago to having bought three plants, after mentioning I was thinking about it). Or maybe instead I've planted them and I’m now proudly growing a favorite plant of tacky suburban gardens everywhere? (whoops, how many people did I just offend with that comment?)

Those poor little plants. I moved them around the garden, trying to find just the spot…but no. I couldn’t make them work, maybe it’s the preponderance of grey days here in the Pacific NW but they looked hopelessly dingy. Time to toss them; or maybe give them to somebody else…or…guerrilla plant them in a friend’s garden and see what they do! (like this one?)

In the end I decided to have a little fun. After all it was seeing Dusty Miller in hip floral arrangements that started me thinking of them in a different way, maybe I should see what I could do? Let me just preface these photos by saying there is a reason floral designers are paid to do what they do…and I am not one of them. I have no illusions of grandeur; I was just having fun…

I went with a neutral color scheme because I wanted it to work with my green/grey/white mantle-scape which I’m still not tired of.

It turned out a little “weddingy”…although I guess most brides don’t carry an agave down the aisle (I wish I would've thought to do that back when Andrew and I were married!).

I really liked how the soft texture of the Dusty Miller leaves worked with the teeth and leaf markings on the agave…

By the way the agave was a gift from Pam, a pup from her Agave colorata which I haven't yet planted up.

Also from Pam an Aloe 'Blue Elf,' which I couldn’t resist tucking in the (left over from Christmas) eucalyptus in the vase behind.

The other succulents are ones from my collection.

Yikes! I hope I haven't gone and done what Scott referred to as the succulent equivalent of “bedazzling!” Thankfully a few leaves in a vase alone is a nice way to go too…

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Agave parryi 'JC Raulston'...my favorite plant in the garden this week.

It’s about time I featured an agave don’t you think? Well ‘JC Raulston’ has definitely earned the privilege. This particular plant…

Has been in my garden for two years now, that’s two wet winters without any damage at all.

It is simply perfect.

Pictured below is my second ‘JC’ planted last spring in a space vacated by a less suitable agave (it turned to mush). This one has grown significantly, easily out-sizing its older brother.

As if just to prove these plants are alive and not plastic this one has developed a bit of a blemish over the winter.

Still its beauty is unchanged in my eyes.

When I first discovered this clone the description from Plant Delights Nursery was what convinced me to buy: "We've grown Agave parryi from all along its native range, but the best clone is still the one growing at the JC Raulston Arboretum in NC. We tracked this clone back to a plant that came from J.C.'s 1979 trip to California's Strybing Arboretum. Strybing obtained their plant from California professor Jack Napton in 1971. This special clone forms large symmetrical 2' tall x 3' wide rosettes that seem particularly well-adapted to winters in wet, humid climates. It is slow to offset compared with many forms, which makes propagation more of a challenge. This clone needed a name and we could not think of anything better than to name it after the late Dr. J.C. Raulston."

Yes “particularly well-adapted to winters in wet...climates.” is what sold me. What I don’t understand is the part about being slow to offset. The oldest one has freely pupped in the ground and I separated these as tiny offsets before I planted the second one.

The stats:
  • Hardy in zones 7a-9b
  • Eventual size 2ft tall x 3 ft wide
  • Needs fun sun in well drained soil…loves some heat
  • Monocarpic, once it blooms the mother plant will die

I should confess that when I went back to The Gardener’s Choice to buy that Ligularia 'Osiris Cafe Noir' (you knew I was going to), they were having a “buy one get one free” sale on all agaves. How could I say no? Now I’ve got two more JC’s to play with…and there are pups!

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

It’s gonna bloom!

There's nothing quite like the rush you feel when you're going about your day and suddenly notice a plant that’s getting ready to bloom. For me that feeling is as nice as seeing the bloom itself, I think because the act of blooming seems to say the pant healthy and settled in…”it’s going to bloom, it must be happy here!” It’s even better when it’s the first time that plant has bloomed in your garden.

I was taking pictures for Tuesday’s blog post when I noticed the tips of the Euphorbia stygiana looked a little different. Sure enough! We’re gonna see flowers!

The same for this Astelia nivicola ‘Red Gem.’ I leaned in for a close up and saw the little bloom just starting to emerge.

Odd looking thing isn’t it?

These Echium russicum are said to biennial in nature, but they are indeed performing as perennials in my garden.

I look forward to their blooms again this year…

I picked up this Lupinus arboreus at the Cistus “tough love” sale last fall, the label gave me no indication of the flower color. Looks like I’m going to find out soon…

As nice as it will be to see the flower the leaves are definitely why I bought this plant, love them!

There’s no doubt about it, the Verbascum bombyciferum 'Arctic Summer' is going to bloom. I wonder how tall the spike will be?

Here’s a surprise, I thought this peony went away with the Bishop’s Weed removal. I guess not! Instead it’s come up about 2 ft further south than where it used to be.

It’s gonna bloom too…

I recently shared a photo of the Disporum cantoniense 'Night Heron' but figured it’s so dramatic I can get away with another.

Same goes for the Echium x wildpretii 'Rocket,’ which I think put on about a foot of growth in the last week.

This is the first winter I didn't cut back the foliage on my Melianthus major 'Antonow's Blue' and look...I'm going to be rewarded with at least one bloom!

Both of my Dudleya cymosa have buds forming.

Peek-a-boo bud on Podophyllum peltatum.

Quite a few of the Syneilesis hybrids are showing signs of flowering.

I thought it looked like a bud was forming on the Rodgersia 'Bronze Peacock' when I bought it, sure enough.

And now that the Tropaeolum peregrinum is happily weaving its way up the trellis it’s producing even more buds.

Things are gonna be flower crazy around here in a couple of weeks!

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Making the sidewalk safe again for NE Portland pedestrians…

Many a time I’ve bemoaned the fact our street trees, a pair of Styrax japonica, weren’t great choices. All it takes is this photo from June of 2011 to tell you why…

Branches heavy with wet blossoms completely block the sidewalk. After the flowers fell the common name "snow bell" became all the more appropriate as the sidewalk looks to be covered with snow (creating a very slick surface).

Since we inherited these trees I have no way of knowing what they looked like when planted. I can tell you two of our neighbors have the same trees but theirs are growing tall and narrow, while ours are the shorter wider version. This is what they looked like in January...

Beautiful trees really, if they were in a garden, but not the shape desired for a narrow parking strip.

We’d occasionally trimmed them up to the best of our limited ability, but it was finally time to bring in a professional. But how do you know you’re getting someone who will bring out the best in your trees, even structurally challenged ones like ours? Instead of just hacking away at them and sending you a bill?

Well lucky us because we actually had someone that we trusted volunteer to do the job! Yes my hydrangea adopting neighbor Bridget claims pruning is one of her very favorite things to do, and watching her work on that (thankfully sunny) afternoon in February, I believe her.

Plus by working with her I got to learn a thing or two about the process, while Andrew delighted in sawing and chopping (who knew he'd find an excuse to climb such a short tree?).

Our trees were so dense with tiny twig growth there was a lot of work to be done just to open them up.

Knowing my low-tolerance for ugly things in the garden Bridget had warned me they might be a bit awkward at first and take time to grow into their new shape. I was prepared, but actually they looked great right away, she really brought out the best possible version of these trees.

Sure there are a few ugly scars that call attention to themselves, but those will fade with time.

And it was so nice to watch people walk down the sidewalk and not have to duck!

Now that they’re starting to leaf out it’s obvious just how much material was removed.

The leaves are so high, they actually have visible branches! (the tree on the right (below) has always been the runt; it doesn’t have a strong leader and is a little aesthetically challenged…)

But this is the best it’s looked in a long time!

Go ahead Portland; it’s safe to walk down our side of the street again (just don’t trip and fall on the agaves)…

And thank you Bridget for whipping our crazy trees into shape!

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.