Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Peek Inside the Greenhouse 3

It's time for another look inside the greenhouse to see what's progressing in there.

The greenhouse from the front door

A few weeks ago I gave everything a nice drink of fish emulsion, which in the enclosed space gave off a strong smell of bad sushi. But more recently I had noticed that smell had dissipated, and in its place was another scent, just as strong, but more lemony and much more pleasant. I wondered what it was, but had no clue until one morning while pulling out of the driveway to take Nigel to the train station, I noticed a bright orange glow behind the glass. I recognized what it was immediately, and was amazed that I had overlooked it.

What's that orange glow?
 One of my Brugmansias liked the fish emulsion and the conditions inside the greenhouse so much that it has already started flowering.

There's the shy bloom hiding behind a couple of Agaves

Right side view through the door

Left side view

My castor beans, which had just been sowed at the time of my last greenhouse post, have sprouted like crazy.

I'll have lots to share at the Spring Portland Garden Bloggers Plant Exchange next weekend.

I have an abundance of a variety of castor bean called New Zealand Purple. Chiltern's website, where I bought some of my seeds, has this to say about the variety: "Looking for a plant to impress the neighbours? Then try this one! All parts of this splendid and handsome specimen (including the seed pods) are deep purple; but not just any old purple but a sunlight-reflecting, metallic rich coppery-bronze which gives the enormous leaves the impression of having been hammered out of the finest alloy. A variety that will illuminate any garden. 6 ft."

A good start to my tropicalesque vision for my front garden.

Another plant that is very happy to be inside the greenhouse is my Musa sikkimensis 'Red Tiger.' It is pumping out leaves that are hitting the ceiling, and is going to have to exit the greenhouse lying down in a couple of weeks.

And it has produced three offsets.

The third offset is small and perhaps hard to see, sitting at about the 7 or 8 o'clock position around the banana's stem.

I thought last year when I put it in this large pot that it would be happy there for a few years, but...perhaps not.

The Bromeliads under the big wire-topped bench are very happy. They get a drink of water into their cups every so often, and get dripped on by the others above them as they drain.

Wide-leaved Cordyline 'Miss Andrea' is happy, also pumping out new leaves.

I have lots of flowers on my variegated, orange-flowered Abutilon.

And the beginnings of a flower on brand-new greenhouse resident Alstroemeria 'Rock and Roll.'

Tiny pincushion-like Euphorbia obesa is also a new acquistion.

Begonia boliviensis is finally showing indications that I didn't in fact kill it via neglect over the winter.

Unfortunately I can't say the same for the Bougainvillea that I bought from WeHOP last fall. She is apparently dead as a doornail. No pictures, may she rest in peace.

I added a folding chair and a stepladder. I seldom use the chair, but the stepladder has been useful.

In a few weeks, around Mother's Day (here in the U.S. Mother's Day is in mid-May), many of these greenhouse plants will be moving out into the sunshine for the summer, and the tomatoes and peppers will spend the summer in here getting big and fat and hopefully chock-full of fruit. For a while after that there will be more room in there, so I might re-arrange things and set up the chair and a little table, for those rare moments when I am out in the garden and actually think about resting, which isn't often.

I hope you enjoyed this view inside the greenhouse. I posted as a participant in Helen Johnstone's meme 'The Greenhouse Year.' You can read her post here, and check out the comments, where others may leave links to posts about their greenhouse goings-on as well.

Friday, April 18, 2014

My Favorite Plant in the Garden This Week is Epimedium

One of my favorite plants for dry shade is Epimedium. It comes in such a wonderful variety of leaf shapes and flower colors. I have lots, all over my garden, in many different beds, but unfortunately have lost or misplaced or buried beyond retrieval most of the tags, so for the most part I have no idea which is which.

But I still want to share this great plant in all its variety. They are all blooming like crazy right now, and sending up new foliage.

'Frohnleiten,' the first Epimedium I planted here in Washington

The clump has spread nicely

'Frohnleiten' flowers at the same time as Brunnera, and the yellow and blue work well together

When we first moved here from Massachusetts, I had a steep learning curve regarding all the new plants I could grow in this climate and zone. But Epimedium is one that I was already familiar with. I had been growing it in my Massachusetts garden for at least 15 years or so, but when I first bought it there was nowhere near the variety that I see now at nurseries and at all the special spring sales.

Epimedium makes a great companion to other shade plants such as Hellebore, Hakone grass and Beesia.

Epimedium has a wide range of interesting and funny common names -- barrenwort, bishop's hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed, rowdy lamb herb, randy beef grass or yin yang huo. There are about 50 species of Epimedium, most of which come from China.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Red Beauty'

Here in my Zone 7b/8a PNW garden, they are evergreen, although the old foliage does get ratty-looking after a harsh winter like the one we just had. It helps the plant's looks to cut the old foliage back in the late winter, which has the added benefit of making the new flowers stand out more (like many Hellebores). They are a great option for dry shade, but also thrive in our very wet and cool fall/winter/spring period. Epimediums increase slowly via underground rhizomes, but the rhizomes never travel far from the main plant, unlike other plants that run riot. In zones colder than 7 (like my previous Zone 6 Massachusetts garden) they are deciduous.

Some are grown primarily for their foliage. I have a small handful that I bought for their leaves, such as Epimedium wushanense, below.

I love the pattern on this leaf, it reminds me of stained glass

I can see the reason for the common name 'Fairy Wings.'

I don't know the name of this one, but I love its fabulous chocolate foliage

It eventually fades to green

You can find lots more info about all kinds of Epimediums here, at the website Plant Lust.

The favorite plant in the garden meme is hosted by Loree at the blog danger garden. Her favorite this week is Magnolia laevifolia, which looks like a fabulous plant (Read her post here)! Check out the comments to see what other bloggers are sharing this week.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Different Kind of Spring Ephemeral

I don't know much about mayflies of the Pacific Northwest. But I've been seeing them lately hanging out on the outside of my greenhouse. According to Wikipedia, they belong to a group of insects called Ephemeroptera. They're aquatic insects, which in the adult stage have a very short lifespan, from a few minutes to a few days. The nymphs live longer than a year, in a body of water. The adults' primary function is to reproduce. They have vestigial mouthparts, which apparently are not used for eating (what a bummer that would be), and a digestive system full of air.

Not as pretty as butterflies or dragonflies, but then, they hold still longer.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Foliage Followup -- April 2014

There's so much new growth out in my garden right now, it's hard to focus on the flowers. It seems like every day I see something new leafing out. Some plants, like Rodgersia, come up late, and I always worry each year that they won't come back. I have lost a few things, like Melianthus major, to the harsh winter, but plenty of plants are coming back quite well.

Here's a little rundown on what's catching my eye.

Heuchera 'Miracle'

Mottled Podophyllum (I'm sure I have the name somewhere)

Solid green Podophyllum pleianthum has been in this spot for a couple of years now, and the number of leaves increases every year, so it must be happy

Ostrich ferns unfurling remind me of cobras getting ready to strike

Our native sword fern isn't quite as graceful as the ostrich fern

This one reminds me of an elephant's trunk

Little furry knots


When I finally got to this bed to tidy it after the winter, I was so thrilled to see this healthy Cardiocrinum giganteum foliage

Honeysuckle, trellis, fence

Hydrangea macrophylla 'New Wave'

Solomon's Seal

Trillium and PNW native Vanilla Leaf (Achlys triphylla)

New foliage on Corylopsis spicata


Tulip 'Fire of Love' in front and Carex 'Banana Boat'

Foliage Followup is hosted by Pam Penick of the blog Digging on the 16th of every month, the day after Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and its purpose is to celebrate the unique contribution that foliage makes to our gardens. Check out Pam's blog post here, and be sure and visit the links in the comments.