April Flowers

Bring May… seed pods? Sure, of course. Since the world is on fire right now and we aren’t getting any showers in April, I’m just going to show you some flowers now, even though it’s a very sunny day and pics are hard!

The first California poppy flower is always a thrill to me!

Pretty much every single California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) overwintered with ease this year, so they are big strong plants right now. I’m looking forward to a very long season because there are also fifteen zillion seedlings of all ages, who germinated throughout the fall, winter, and spring.

Imperial white currant

I cannot get over my white currant’s flower show this year. I featured this plant in a recent post about the genus Ribes but I posted a photo of it in fruit, because when I was writing that post, it didn’t look like much yet. But now…

Ribes rubrum ‘Imperial’
Cerinthe major overwintered

The problem with daytime full-sun photography with a phone is that the glare from the screen can make it impossible to tell if the lens is focusing on what you want. Oh well. Cerinthe made it through the winter in various stages of floppiness. This a plant that has a very hard time with dog pee, I’ll just say that.

This mustard has naturalized

Three years ago I tossed around some red mustard seed and it’s just an unstoppable force now and I love how it comes up wherever. I might be done with it soon, but for now, it’s bright and cheery and delicious.

Ribes sanguineum ‘Xera’s Lime Punch’ still going

R. sanguineum ‘Xera’s Lime Punch’ is one of my very favorite plants this time of year. It is an absolute beacon of brightness in both flower and leaf, and it seems to fit anywhere in the garden – an eye-catcher from near or far.

Eccremocarpus scaber

My Eccremocarpus vines seem to bloom earlier with each year, as they age. All of them are basically in 100% full bloom right now and it is glorious.

Naturalized violas escaped from a planter years ago
Viola, probably labradorica, too pretty to pull right now
Rosemary ‘Gorizia’ – from Xera

‘Gorizia’ is a great rosemary with a very tall, upright habit and I’m only just figuring out how to tame it and shape it a bit. It’s a very heavy bloomer – in fact it seems to always have some flowers (I could be making that up). It is the ‘it’ plant for the bees right now – you can hear it buzz.

Ok not a flower *yet*

Despite it not being a flower I have to show my Hydrangea quercifolia which is now in its 4th solid year of being variegated, which started in 2017. Working on propagation – it has resisted efforts at cuttings so far, so next attempt will be layering.

Ribes speciosum continues unabated
Various Euphorbias – the dark one is ‘Blackbird’ or similar
Meyer lemon on the patio
Sarracenias are making buds!
Iris x pacifica ‘Simply Wild’
Native Dicentra spectabilis over on the north side of the house
Another native, Oxalis oregana, doing really well after being planted just last year
Rhododendron serpyllifolium var. albiflorum

My friend Dan gave me this charming Rhododendron with the tiniest leaves – in fact it’s also called Thyme-leaved Azalea. It seems to like this spot and is currently blooming profusely.

Dan also gave me the next one…

Rhododendron stenopetalum ‘Linearifolium’

This is a *stunning* plant which is at the same time unassuming. The stunning bit comes from the profusion of spidery flowers in a most unusual form for a Rhododendron. The unassuming bit is that it has a really pleasing, tiered-branching form, like it could easily be seen in a formal Japanese garden. I have both of the above Rhododendrons under a Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ where I’m hoping they will offset the tree’s texture of big, broad leaves with theirs both tiny and lanceolate.

Geranium macrorrhizum

I don’t even remember where I got this Geranium macrorrhizum, but it’s turned out to be a spectacular performer in mostly dry shade under this dogwood tree. It did get some irrigation last summer so I’m sure that helped it a lot to start blooming about a month ago!

It was too much for one photo.
Speaking of the dogwood…
Grevillea ‘Neil Bell’

Also more or less under the dogwood is a newly-planted (ok last summer?) Grevillea ‘Neil Bell’ and I only *just* noticed it has one solitary flower down near the ground! It proved absolutely impossible to achieve focus, so you get an art school photo.

One more:

Armeria maritima ‘Victor Reiter’ in crevice garden

I have started experimenting with the crevice garden concept and I recently completed a second installation of rocks and grit. It’s more or less a continuation of the first, but it’s a sunnier spot and I think I did a better job organizing the rocks. In my next post, I will feature these, so this is your sneak peek.

Thanks for checking in. Stay safe and keep gardening!

Welcome, Spring, and thank you

My friend in a Facebook plant group posted yesterday, saying, “Show us your buds” and while I didn’t manage to post on her thread, I did go out and take some pictures on that beautiful, if frightening, first day of spring. Without further ado:

Ribes sanguineum ‘Xera’s Lime Punch’
Do not not grow this plant, mkay?
Ceanothus ‘Italian Skies’ buds about to burst. I can’t wait!
Oh how beautuful is this. Citrus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ seedling. It’s in a pot.
Phygelius ‘Magenta’ from Annie’s Annuals – I can’t wait for it and neither can the hummingbirds.
On a warm day (above say 55F) it smells like honey and it wafts. Grevillea australis.
Euphorbia something and I just love it. These are immune to dog pee, by the way.
There are many flower buds coming up on this Aquilegia longississima. Beautiful leaf color, too. This blue/purple coloration just happened this past week.
Grevillea ‘Ivanhoe’ looking like he might give me some flowers this year!

That’s all, just a little record of what’s looking particularly interesting today, March 19, 2020.

Stay sanitized, stay physically distanced, and keep gardening, my friends.

Big shoes to fill

I called them my “freeway roses” and one time I had a conversation with my neighbor in which I told her I was thinking of removing them. She said (paraphrasing) “Noooo! They’re pretty!”

They were. Sort of. The great things about Meidiland roses are: Need zero supplemental water, need no pruning, ever, they’re incredibly resistant to every disease including the ubiquitous black spot, and they bloom for 6 to 8 months. Oh and they’re evergreen. So why would I get rid of such a great plant that does a fantastic job of screening the front yard from the street and helping to create that sense of enclosure that I crave?

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” 
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

I wasted no time on them; no thought nor concern. I wasn’t invested in them. At all. They came with the house. They were a plant that I never in a million years would have chosen, for this garden.

I know it sounds sad. But Portland’s freeways sport thousands of those roses, so no need for any moments of silence. Shall we have a look at the hole?

You would not previously have been able to see my car’s butt
Ex-rose area from the street. Big shoes to fill here.

In the picture above you can really see how big that clump of four plants was: their footprint is clearly marked as the big bare area with lavender on the right, the purple Heuchera behind. What’s that plant in the pot, you ask? Why, that’s Grevillea ‘Neil Bell’ auditioning that spot.

I actually want to plant a manzanita in there too, with the Grevillea. But I don’t have one yet. Fortunately, however, while on a recent botany field trip with my friend Paul, I happened to pick up some Arbutus menziesii sticks from the side of the road…

You have to envision the leaves
Ersatz manzanita. I think it should actually go over to the right about a foot or so.

What if I *also* could have Grevillea x gaudichaudii under that ersatz manzanita? Um yes. Now to find one… if anyone knows please dish it!

Over on the left in pic above, there are two plants worth mentioning. One is a Gala apple that was not planted well (it’s very unstable and probably has terrible roots) and a Garrya elliptica. You can see them both here – apple in back and Garrya is small, in front:

Apple and Garrya, which I’m realizing you actually can’t really see well in this pic.

What I intend to do is move that apple and probably espalier it somewhere else. Backyard, I guess. This is a terrible place for it and it needs to be re-planted anyway to get its root situation sorted out, if possible. I’m hoping the Garrya will occupy its space, mostly. I’m interested in seeing how this trio of shrubs (Garrya, Grevillea, and Arctostaphylos) ends up interacting with each other in this spot, which gets some pretty good blasting afternoon sun and heat, but is otherwise mostly dappled shade from the dogwood overhead. And I think what I envision is for the Garrya and Arcto to get up-pruned, both quite a lot, depending on what they offer in terms of pruning opportunity. Then the Grevillea can do its blob thing, but the whole area won’t end up being a totally solid evergreen wall; instead there will be some alternation and undulation of trunks and foliage. I hope.

Garrya elliptica gets pretty big, but seems to handle sun or shade or anything in between quite well. I saw one in Australia, in the town of Leura in the Blue Mountains, that was in full shade and it was this lovely sinewy thing that wound its way up through other plants and a fence and was mostly up-pruned – I think that’s what I would hope to end up with. We shall see.

I’m not done, there are two more spots. Let’s start with the less developed situation. I am proud to announce that the oh-so-annoying English laurel hedge of encroachment is GONE. Thanks, Dad!

10-15+ feet tall laurel hedge was here right at the edge of the ivy. That’s the property line. There will be no ivy on my property under any circumstances ever.

Dad kindly showed up for two sessions with his electric chain saw. First he cut the whole thing to knee-level, then after a few weeks and some rather impressive regrowth, he came back and chopped it again, this time flush with the soil. There will be more killing in the future, and I want to discuss ivy removal with the neighbor (and possibly limbing up the dead branches of the blue spruce), but more immediately, we now have a LOT more gardenable space!

Here’s the view from the street:

This was a solid mass of laurel from the curb to the Lonicera (dead center in this pic)

It is such a relief to have that gone. There was also a cherry plum in there, about 25′ tall, which we took out. Nasty sticky drippy seedy tree. Now there’s a pile of dirt and wood chips, both of which I really want to get out of there, and I didn’t take pictures focusing on them, but there are three large shrubs toward the street which will also come out: a Nandina, a Berberis (you can see it above on left), and a Mahonia aquifolium (my least favorite of all the Mahonias in the world).

I’m saving the best for last: HOT LIPS IS GONE.

You can see its wake.. see how it pushed the Callistemon down and left?

It went to a very appreciative home, along with the roses. Those will both be GREAT plants for someone who loves easy-care flowers and border color. That Salvia was something I’d put some effort into making peace with. I appreciated its low water needs, its popularity with the hummingbirds, and its nearly evergreen-ness most years. But it was really too much of something I didn’t truly love, especially in this most prominent spot in the entire garden, right by the front door.

I’m now really happy with the plant selection here. Let me give you an annotated pic:

and some Sedum oreganum and an asparagus fern. That big culinary sage in upper left will come out eventually but that’s a whole nother post.

This plant palette makes me much happier than just the ONE BIGASS SALVIA which totally dominated this entire scene previously. If ‘Ivanhoe’ lives consistently through winters here, it’ll eventually have to move and what I might do is put it right where G. victoriae is, because this is too much hot afternoon sun for G. vic to hold onto its flower buds. It has already aborted most of them, and we haven’t even had a hot summer.

But waaay down at the base of the plant, this one flower truss made it:

I love this soft salmon pink color! Not what I expected, but I’ll take it.

But that won’t help the hummingbirds much – they won’t even know it’s there as it’s three inches off the ground.

I’m finding that lately, my plant choices are shifting. Rather than just whatever I think is botanically curious or super gorgeous, I’m taking into account a plant’s utility for pollinators, birds and other wildlife, and for local ecology generally. Hyperlocal, even, inasmuch as that relates to my water provision regimes for the various hydrozones in the garden.

That does NOT mean, by any means, that I want to plant nothing but local natives. I have a lot of those and I’m actively looking for more. What it DOES mean is that I’m seeking maximum year-round support for hummingbirds. I’m prioritizing native and non-native annual flowers that are super popular with the warm-season insect pollinators such as bees. I’m starting to consider nesting materials beyond dog hair. I’m interested in attracting beneficial and/or predatory insects (what eats flea beetles? I’d love to know).

Basically I’m seeing this garden more and more as not just my personal project, but a place that can favorably support a whole lot of organisms beyond just me. That includes not just the wild and domesticated animals and insects that live here and visit, but also the people that live here and visit. Tall order? Nah. Makes it all more interesting. Big shoes to fill with all these large plants getting removed. But it means we’ll end up with a better garden for everyone all around, in time.

Thanks for reading. I’ll take better pictures next time I promise.