Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Shiny Leaves in the Garden


Pachysandra terminalis 'Green Sheen'
Pachysandra terminalis ‘Green Sheen’ started it all. With its incredibly shiny reflective leaves, it’s impossible to stroll by without noticing it. Except for its sheen, it’s a rather unremarkable plant, but in my shady garden, its shiny surface shouts, “Pause and look at me!” So I started looking for other leaves that had the same effect. Ajuga reptans ‘Metallica Crispa’, Osmanthus rotundifolius, Polystichum setiferum (Shield Fern), and Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’ are shiny standouts in my garden, especially ‘Metallica Crispa’. I was curious about other plants that offered shiny foliage, which is especially useful in a shady spot. I happened to be at Portland Nursery for a class, so I took a quick stroll around to see which plants offered intensely shiny foliage and here’s a short list of what I found:
  • Angelica pachycarpa (so incredible I bought one even though I knew nothing about the plant!)
  • Bergenia cordifolia (virtually any cultivar, and its broad dramatic leaves heighten the effect)
  • Cyrtomium falcatum (Japanese Holly Fern)
  • Euonymus japonicas ‘Macrophyllus Butterscotch’
  • Fatsia japonica (I am on the fence about this plant, but its leaves are big and shiny)
  • Heuchera ‘Midnight Ruffles’ or other dark-leaved cultivars
  • Ilex x meservae ‘MonNieves’ PP21941 (Scallywag™ Holly)
  • Quercus robur x bicolor ‘Long’ PP12673 (Regal Prince® Oak)

Do you have a favorite shiny leaved plant?

Ajuga reptans ‘Metallica Crispa’
Osmanthus rotundifolius
Polystichum setiferum (Shield Fern)
Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’
Angelica pachycarpa
Bergenia cordifolia
Cyrtomium falcatum (Japanese Holly Fern)
Euonymus japonicas ‘Macrophyllus Butterscotch’
Fatsia japonica
Heuchera ‘Midnight Ruffles’
Photo: Terra Nova Nurseries Inc

Scallywag™ Holly
Regal Prince® Oak

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Magical (and Real) Tree of 40 Fruit

A Tree of 40 Fruit
Can one tree be an artwork, research project, and form of conservation? If the tree is “sculpted” by award-winning artist Sam Van Aken, the answer is “Yes!” Scheduled to be demolished, the artist stepped in to preserve the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station’s stone fruit orchard. With its 250 varieties, the orchard was a living museum of the 150-200 year history of stone fruit agriculture in the U.S. He believed creating a living form of art – the Tree of 40 Fruit – was the best way to preserve the orchard’s diversity. From the rootstock stage and over the course of five years, forty varieties of stone fruit—peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, plums and almonds—are chip grafted onto a tree. In spring, the normal looking fruit tree turns into a magical tapestry of pink, crimson, white and magenta. It returns to a normal-looking tree until it starts to bear 40 different fruit.

Why did Sam Van Aken create the Tree of 40 Fruit? He believes:

•    As artwork, the tree interrupts and transforms the everyday. Van Aken designs and sculpts a tree by how it blossoms.
•    As a research project, his stone fruit collection and a Tree of 40 Fruit creates a comprehensive timeline of when varieties blossom in relation with each other, important information for the study of pollinators.
•    As a conservation project, he grafts heirloom, antique and native species on each Tree of 40 Fruit and places them throughout country, creating his own type of diversity and preservation.

One person can make a difference.

Van Aken spoke at TEDx-Manhattan. Listen in here. Read an Epicurious interview with the artist here.




Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Container Combinations



Orange. Chartreuse. Burgundy. I finally found success with my containers using a combination of these colors. Until this year, I’ve never been happy with my efforts to produce lush, lovely containers, but inspiration struck when I saw zonal geranium (Pelargonium) ‘Tricolor’ and I’m thrilled with the results.

A grouping of pots near my front steps exudes chartreuse. This year, its brassy color is tempered with splashes of orange and accents of burgundy to tone down the color temperature. The mixture includes a chartreuse and burgundy sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’ and ‘Blackie’, respectively); a long-throated, orange, tender fuchsia; a burgundy and chartreuse coleus; and the gloriously beautiful, variegated Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ (syn. Canna ‘Pretoria’) with its yellow and green striped leaves. Also out front in another pot is Abutilon ‘Salmon’ with its coral colored flowers and speckled yellow and green leaves. (I haven’t attempted to winter over an Abutilon. Have you?)

On my back patio, the color combo continues. Geranium ‘Tricolor’, Oxalis ‘Molten Lava’, Begonia Waterfall® Encanto Falls® Orange, coleus ‘Yellow Fin Tuna’, and an orange monkey flower (Mimulus) flaunt their colors. Tucked under all the exuberant foliage and flowers is Platt’s Black Brass Buttons (Leptinella squalida), which doesn’t stand a chance with its diminutive size and subtle coloration.

What are your favorite container combinations this year?


Abutilon Salmon



Monday, July 28, 2014

New Plant Encounters

Salad Burnet (Sanguisorb minor). Photo: WikiCommons

New is in the eye of the beholder and these plants are new to me even though one has been around for hundreds of years.

A potluck dish of deviled eggs was decorated with a plant with intriguing oval, tooth-edged pinnate leaflets. Turns out the plant is a perennial herb called Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor, syn. Poterium sanguisorba). “Salad what?” I said, stumped by the name. When I popped a leaf in my mouth, I didn’t taste much flavor, although some sources say it tastes of “light cucumber.” Brought to the New World by the first English colonists, it does well in containers as it is drought-tolerant, compact (12 – 18 inches tall and 12  – 24 inches wide), clump forming, hardy (USDA zones 4 – 8) and heat tolerant. Plant it in full sun to part shade conditions. Use the youngest leaves in salads and dressings. Click here for more detailed information, including its medicinal properties. It spreads by rhizomes and self-seeds. It looks like it would be an attractive addition to the garden, and it almost always is a plus that it is edible.


Amaranthus 'Illumination'
Eucomis Aloha Lily® Tiki

While at Portland Nursery for an espalier fruit tree pruning class, I walked by the stop-you-in-your-tracks Amaranthus ‘Illumination’ and had to take a photo. Wow! This three to four-foot tall plant would be lovely sprinkled among other sun-loving plants in well-drained soil. An annual, the sturdy stems hold darker green leaves below the densely-packed gold and red foliage above. Color holds from mid-summer until frost.

Another intriguing find also requires full sun and good drainage: Eucomis Aloha Lily® Tiki. The Aloha Lily series are compact (18 inches tall and wide). Pink flowers appear July until frost. USDA Zone 8. Cute!

What new-to-you plants have you seen this year?

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Value of Garden Tours



Gate by Mike Suri, Suri Iron
Finding inspiration. Spending a day with friends. Reveling in what gardeners—and garden designers—have accomplished. Seeing how garden and lifestyle challenges are solved. These are a few reasons to take advantage of garden tours. In the case of the ANLD Designers Garden Tour which took place June 28, visiting six urban gardens also raised funds for ANLD’s scholarship fund. (ANLD stands for Association of Northwest Landscape Designers.) Click here and you’ll see more photos and explanations of the projects. I’d like to share what my takeaways were for  the gardens.

However, before launching into the ANLD garden tour photo essay, if you live in the Portland area, I encourage you to join the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon to take advantage of the hundreds of open gardens that its members so generously share. The open gardens alone are worth the price of membership!

Art in the ANLD gardens played and important role.It created focal points and whimsy, distracted the eye from vistas best left unseen, added punches of color, and visually pulled the visitor to destinations in the garden, not to mention creating the "Wow!" factor.

The rusted metal rooster added an element of surprise in an otherwise sophisticated Japanese-inspired garden. Rooster was designed by metal artist Zoe Bacon in the garden designed by Barb Hilty.

Garden owner Linda Ernst created these lively glass panels to add color in her already colorful edible garden.

Also in the Ernst garden, this contemporary gate acts as art.

The forms in this garden gate by Mike Suri, Suri Iron, were inspired by the poppies found on the property and saved by the homeowners when they built their new eco-friendly home on the lot. Garden designed by Marina Wynton.

St. Francis is one of my favorite sculptures by artist Patrick Gracewood, Gracewood Studios. Garden was designed by Bruce Hegna.

Structures define space and add functionality to a garden. Both of these garden structures were used as light-filled tool sheds that can also shelter tender plants.
Shed with green roof designed by Marina Wynton.

Shed was crafted by Patrick Blakeslee. Lion in foreground was sculpted by Patrick Gracewood.


Water features can contribute visual appeal, drama, color and sound to a garden. The sound distracts the ear from unappealing neighborhood and traffic noise, a very practical application, but overall the effect is usually one of relaxing the soul. Ahhhh.
Found granite was the inspiration for this custom water feature. Its scale is large for the garden space adding a lot of zen drama, if one can use both those words to describe something. Garden designed by Barb Hilty; refreshed plantings designed by Adriana Berry.
The small birdbath-like fountain provides just enough movement and sound to make it a welcome destination for wildlife. Garden was designed by Darcy Daniels.

This contemporary water feature design incorporates the owners' glass artistry. Designed by Laura Crockett.

Sometimes it is the very subtle that is of great interest in a garden design.

Brass Buttons (Leptinella squalida, formerly Cotula squalida) made a tidy and attention-grabbing ground cover for this parking strip in the garden designed by Donna Giguere.

The design challenge was to manage a steeply sloping slope (solution: beautiful concrete retaining walls that compliment the 1905 house), create off-street parking (solution: carve space out of the sloping yard and use attractive permeable pavers), and use low maintenance plantings. Designer: Donna Giguere.

Rain water was redirected to this simple and stylish rain garden. Designer: Donna Giguere.

Believe it or not, this is a Mahonia! Fabulous evergreen texture. Look for Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress'.










Monday, July 7, 2014

Gardening as Exercise

Wrist Stretch for the Gardener. Photo: www.StacyBest.com
I don’t like gyms or to “work out,” but I do like gardening. In addition to walking Barney, my adorable Golden Retriever, and dancing, I consider gardening to be a vital part of my fitness, health and well-being program. I used to be able to work in the garden for hours and hours, now a four to six hour stint is about all I can muster. What I don’t do—but should—is prepare for working in the garden by stretching. Stacy Best is a garden coach with a blog offering tips on gardening for health, including stretching. A few well chosen stretches might make a day in the garden—and the next day—even more enjoyable!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Investing in Hydrangeas

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Wayne's White'
Hydrangeas offer some of the best garden value for the dollar: Months of blooms and, in some cases, stem and leaf color and a fall foliage show. You have the macrophylla (mophead and lacecaps), paniculata, quercifolia (oakleaf), serrata, and even the occasional aspera and arborescen. Every year, more new hydrangeas appear on the market. The hottest new characteristics are compact form (three feet tall and wide) and multi-colored blooms on the plant at the same time. I did a tally in my head and the number of Hydrangeas I have in my yard is … 40!

When most of my Hydrangeas were just starting to form buds, Twist-'n-Shout was already in full bloom. It blooms on new wood, but it blooms much earlier and more prolifically on old wood. It is a stunner with  bright blue, eight-inch wide lacecap blooms. Last year I was given a ‘Lemon Daddy’; its foliage is a lovely chartreuse. It has a few blooms forming and I suspect the mophead will be a light pink.‘Wayne’s White’ is one of my favorites. It’s a lacecap, but it seems to have fewer fertile flowers than other lacecaps, either that or they are just covered by the massive, showy, sterile flowers that open with a tinge of pink and age to pure white.
Twist-'n-Shout
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lemon Daddy'


‘Glowing Embers’ (a.k.a. ‘Alpengluhen’) is hard to beat for intense, magenta mophead flowers. It is reliable with dark green leaves and a nice size (about four feet tall and wide).  The dark purple-black stems of ‘Nigra’ beautifully offset its deep pink blooms. ‘Zebra’ is a compact mophead with white blooms and sturdy dark stems, and it is blessed with a much smaller stature than ‘Nigra’. This is its second year in my garden and I’m impressed. And of course, H. serrata 'Preziosa' offers dark maroon stems and lots of flowers.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Glowing Embers'
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Nigra'

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Zebra'

Hydrangea serrata 'Preziosa'
Regrettably, I’ve lost the tags on many varieties in my garden. I wish I knew the cultivar names of three in particular. One is a small-stature lacecap with intensely blue three-inch blooms. Another blue lacecap is a larger shrub with sterile blooms and bead-like fertile flowers that intensify in color as they mature. Another is a paniculata. Paniculatas often feature reddish stems with pyramid-shaped flowerheads. The one I’m so enamored with is rather course in texture with a balanced mix of creamy sterile and fertile flowers.
Unknown small stature lacecap Hydrangea

Unknown lacecap Hydrangea

Unknown Hydrangea paniculata
And then there is the oakleaf hydrangea ‘Snowflake’ with its double white blooms. It’s a bit floppy, but the blooms age beautifully and the leaves turn a lovely purplish red in the fall.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake'

There have been a few disappointments, too, but those I gave away and they are thriving in the gardens of friends. Few pests bother Hydrangeas and they make beautiful cut flowers. Other than a little fertilizer and some pruning, Hydrangeas are delightfully carefree. A nice mix of species and cultivars generally can be found in garden centers and a vast selection can be found at www.HydrangeasPlus.com.

Do you have a can’t-live-without-it Hydrangea?