Thursday, October 31, 2013

But it looks dead! (my favorite plants in the garden on Halloween)...

I thought it would be fun to change things up a bit this week, in honor of Halloween, and share with you some of the plants in my garden that aren't so, well, lush. In fact they've been said to look dead. I can still hear my mother-in-law when Andrew and I selected this Pseudopanax ferox at Cistus Nursery, "you're paying $30 for a pot with a few dead brown sticks in it?" yes, yes we did. And it's grown rather nicely...

From Cistus: "One of those cool dinosaur plants found down Kiwi way that catches the eye and triggers the lust gene in plant geeks and adventurous gardeners. Juvenile leaves are dark brown, long, very narrow, stiff, and saw-toothed, growing downward from a central stem -- odd indeed. Slow growing, trees reach 20' in 20+ years, only then producing adult foliage, shorter, wider, and green. Sun to dappled or bright shade and regular summer water. Frost hardy in USDA zone 8b in a sheltered location, though even in Portland we keep most of ours in containers and shelter during winter cold."

Another Pseudopanax, this one P. crassifolius. Like P. ferox the juvenile foliage differs greatly from that of the mature tree. From the San Marcos Growers website: "The dimorphic changes between a smaller juvenile and the mature plant is common in New Zealand plants and is thought to be a defense mechanism to prevent animals (perhaps even the legendary Moa, a large flightless and now extinct bird) from browsing a young tree."

This one is Pittosporum divaricatum...

The Cistus description: "This plant, on our lust list for years, is in many ways a typical New Zealand citizen, with tiny, only 1/4", narrow, toothed leaves of nearly jet black, providing difficult grazing for beaky animals…all this on a densely upright, divaricating shrub. Eventually to 8' or more, but easily kept at 3-4', producing small, blackish purple flowers and, with age, larger leaves. Is there a theme? Striking pot or garden specimen. We suggest planting with silver foliage plants so youngsters don't get lost or stepped on. Prefers some summer water where dry. Has proven hardy to 10 °F or so, USDA zone 8."

See there are leaves!

This spooky little plant, also from New Zealand and also from Cistus (coincidence?), was a gift from Sean Hogan last summer. Pittosporum patulum, I trust you'll kindly ignore the oxalis on it's right.

The next plant, Muehlenbeckia astonii, looks a little livelier at the moment with its small green leaves, but once they go away and just the tiny branches remain this plant almost disappears: "This amazing little shrub has become a favorite at our nursery. Much like the divaricating zig zag branch pattern of Corokia cotoneaster this shrub has even more zig and zag. The twisting little stems surround the shrub and build a perfectly round net of branches. Tiny paw shaped leaves appear in summer in a swish of green. They quietly go away in winter but the shrub remains charming. A netted shrub. Tiny cream flowers in summer go almost unnoticed. What is really fantastic is this small shrub (To 3' tall and rounded to 3' wide in 5 years) is completely hardy to cold. Surprising since its a New Zealand native. A piece of living sculpture with a soft mein. Drought tolerant. For full sun to quite a bit of shade." - Cistus.

Another Muehlenbeckia, M. ephedroides. This one was recently picked up at Xera Plants, and is in holding (yes, in the denial garden) until I decide where to plant it in the spring.

Would you have guessed it's also a New Zealand native? Of course you would.

Sophora prostrata 'Little Baby' has a coloring which makes it look little less crispy, but it's still all about the zig-zag branches and what the heck since it's another one from New Zealand I figured why not include it...

"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." - Cistus

And finally Corokia Cotoneaster...

"Why, its not a Cotoneaster at all, in fact Corokia is a member of the dogwood family and evolved its twisted zigzagging stems and small leaves to fend off grazing by giant birds in New Zealand. The birds are now extinct and we are left with this shrub as a natural bonsai. To 4' tall and 3' wide. Full sun to part shade. Regular water. Great winter container plant. Yellow flowers in summer followed by red berries." - Xera Plants

Now of course I'm visualizing an entire spooky garden made of of these crazy plants from New Zealand. Of course I'd need to sneak in a Rosa sericea ssp. omeiensis f. pteracantha (Wingthorn Rose), it's blood red thorns would be just the thing to go with all these dark wiry plants!

I hope you've got lots of fun (and a little spooky) things planned for Halloween. Stay safe and as always please tell us about what plant you're currently enamored with in your garden...

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Shade Pavilion Greenhouse, upgrade…

Most of you know the structure we refer to as our “shade pavilion” undergoes a winter-time transformation to become a sort of greenhouse. The design we’ve been using goes back to 2010 and had become a little tattered. Still usable, but begging to be improved upon in the mind of its designer, Andrew.

Construction began on October 19th a beautifully sunny and warm day. Cleared of many of the potted plants (about half are already inside for the winter) the patio became a great work area.

Of course the supervisor was napping as soon as work got underway, as they do.

I should save the best part for last, but I'm not going to...the new design is bigger, as in there is MORE ROOM FOR PLANTS...yes, it's true! The sides on the old design fell just about at the outer edge of the orange upright. The new sides mount where you see the "U" shaped cut out in the 2x4. That's roughly 9" of new space on each side, 18" overall, running the full length of the structure.

And the new sides are clear and solid. The old design (picture coming up below) had solid ends but the sides and roof were made up of sheet poly.

Now they're corrugated panels sandwiched between two pieces of wood.

We eventually placed grey pipe insulating tubes along the bottom edge to help keep it air-tight-ish. And yes the labels came off, we were leaving them in place during construction to help keep the front and back sides obvious.

Here you can see the bottom seal as well as the ultra moderne and stylish curved corners...

The finished product! You can barely make out the white curved pieces that fit in the gaps at the top of each wall and under the roof. The design is so sleek I almost wish I had time to break out the orange paint and cover the raw wood, so it better blends. However as it ages it will darken and not be so loud (as evidenced but the older vertical piece you can see in the photo above)

Seems the supervisor woke up just in time to inspect our work.

Look how big and spaceous! (and bright)

Because he is always trying to improve upon things Andrew is already critiquing this design. He wishes the roof had been tilted to allow for rain (snow???) to run off. It is completely under the metal roof (this image makes it look like it extends beyond) though so hopefully that won't be too much of an issue.

This design lets in so much more light than the old one! Okay enough admiring it's time to fill it up...

Don't they look happy?

I fear the utilitarian shelving brings down the overall property value though...

The three dark grey stripes on the right side (below) are non-residue duct tape we used to seal the panels together. It's a nice dark color (not silver) and blends quite well, when we take it apart in the Spring the tape will pull right off with no sticky stuff left behind. The reason there aren't any stripes on the left is because we ran out of tape, I've since finished the job. Oh and that empty space inside on the left is for a couple of plants I needed Andrews help lifting.

Here's the old design, a photo from it's first year of use. Some of you might notice the plant collection has grown a little over the years too...

This is a definite improvement!

Here are the stragglers, waiting to be tucked in there by the door. They've since been moved in and fit perfectly.

Plus I still have a little extra room to get in there and check on things and water a bit.

Because I don't want to let things like my acacia get too dried out...

There are other benefits to an enclosed space too, like the fact I finally noticed the amazing scent of the Colletia hystrix flowers.

Plants like Mr. Big, my Agave americana 'Variegata' are happy at the prospect of a dry winter.

And I'm hoping plants like the Grevillea 'Superb' I brought home from the Ruth Bancroft Garden will stay just warm enough to live through the winter. Of course things are organized with the plants that need the most heat both nearest the eventual heat source, as well as close to the door - should an emergency evacuation (into the warm house) be required.

I wish I knew what winter holds for us all, but at least my plants have the best possible chance at a cozy few months.

And how lucky am I to have a husband who will spend his limited free time building things to protect the ridiculous quantities of special-needs-plants we've acquired? (very)

By the way the temperature inside the "greenhouse" is running a full 4 degrees warmer overnight, with no heat, how fabulous is that? Of course the sun has been helping to heat it up during the day and as the morning progresses and the outside air warms up, it lags behind. I'm going to have to get in the habit of opening it up for air circulation. And look into less obnoxious shelving...

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Last weekend I visited Flower World in Maltby, Washington. I’d heard about this place from a couple of friends, most recently The Outlaw. Since it was a grey and chilly day we spent most of our visit in the Seasonal House, where it was warm and bright.

And where there were more houseplants than I think I’ve ever seen in one location. The word I’ve heard most often used to describe Flower World is BIG and indeed, it really is. Besides the sheer size, the thing I was blown away by was the quantity. If you liked something you had about 50 of them to choose from, it was a little intimidating.

My friend Erin liked the tri-color Cordylines.

Whereas I was partial to Miss Andrea, in fact one came home with me.

Of course since there were so many to choose from it took awhile to decide which one.

How do you decided which plant is “the one?” I’ve seen people just grab the one in front, and people who decide they must have the one in the back, furthest out of reach. I usually select three good looking ones and chose the one that speaks to me from that group. It helps to put them on the ground too, since that’s the angle I’ll usually see it from. Aren't those colors just fabulous!?

See what I mean about multiples?

It's rare to see opuntia like this in a nursery.

They've taken some cuttings from old woody specimens. I like it!

There was only one of these bad boys, not multiples.

But if you looked close you could see it was made up of multiple smaller Staghorns.

Multiple crew-cut-suffering Carex morrowii 'Silver Scepter'...

It's fairly rare to see a group of Magnolia macrophylla, especially so tall.

Platycladus orientalis 'Aurea Nana' (Berckman Dwarf Golden Arborvitae), these look like they might take a bite out of your little dog when you're not looking, thankfully I left mine at home.

Now a not so subtle segue into another location with multiples, my friend Patrica's garden. Where else in Portland are you going to see so many Echium wildpretii?


So this is what happens when you let a blooming plant go to seed...

They look a little like sea anemones don't you think?

There's another plant she's going to have multiples of next spring. Hopefully this means I'll have a source for seedlings!

And finally, multiple people mentioned Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea' when I asked about dark evergreen foliage hardy in my zone. Is that it, below? Yes it's in Patricia's garden, and yes I could have asked her but she just broke her shoulder and had surgery with multiple screws placed in the bone. I don't think plant I.D. is high on her list of priorities at the moment. Please advise if you know...

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